Monday, July 7, 2014

A third barrier to communication

Please stop saying "literally."

I am literally so glad to be going home!

I am literally pissed!

We have literally a ton of turkeys in the back.

I doubt we have 2,000 pounds of turkeys to sell, and I'm pretty sure being literally pissed would be more funny than dramatic.

Just like people's use of the word "word." You say something true, someone says "word."

"We should be able to get out early today."

"Word!"

I heard someone say it after he clocked out of work. He just punched out for the day, and said "word."

What? What does that mean? What's it refer to? I asked two people about that, and they couldn't tell me what it means, and yet they still use it. I don't get it.

This must be how my parents felt listening to the way my generation started talking. I suppose if someone asked me to explain why I say "cool" when I'm amazed or impressed, I couldn't say exactly what I mean. Their parents probably didn't get "swell" or "groovy" in the same way either.

But please stop using literally. It doesn't meant what you think it does. I like the begrudging acknowledgement in Apple's dictionary (which I think is Oxford):

In its standard use, literally means ‘in a literal sense, as opposed to a nonliteral or exaggerated sense’: I told him I never wanted to see him again, but I didn't expect him to take it literally. In recent years, an extended use of literally (and also literal) has become very common, where literally (or literal) is used deliberately in nonliteral contexts, for added effect: they bought the car and literally ran it into the ground. This use can lead to unintentional humorous effects ( we were literally killing ourselves laughing) and is not acceptable in formal English.

As you can see, it is literally unacceptable!

Please stop!

Word!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Seek the Original: The Golden Compass

77.9% of everything Hollywood does is adapted from a book, or short story, or comic. Never settle for an adaptation. Seek the original!

Boy it's hard to review this one without spoilers. Any discussion of the book will give too much away, so I will mostly stick to the movie.


The Golden Compass
by Philip Pullman

An alternate world where religion and science are one and the same, spirits are real and technology is still in the Victorian age. A universe where human souls exist outside their bodies in the form of an animal, called a daemon.

And there is Dust. The Church fears these particles coming from the sky, but why? And what are they doing to children in order to fight this Dust? Why should they fight it at all? A young girl named Lyra is in the middle of this conflict. She and her daemon will figure out what this conspiracy at the heart of the Church is, and why she is so important.

She knows her mother is on the side of wrong, so her father must be the good guy, isn't he? Maybe, but maybe not.

This is a sprawling, sweeping epic. Huge in scope and amazing to behold, a well-imagined tale. Lyra is an active main character, and it's refreshing to see this young girl take charge and influence the world around her whenever she can.

It creates an amazing world, and Dust is certainly worth the enormous buildup. The concept behind it takes a bit of rethinking, but it has huge implications and I had to read the rest of the series to find out how this can this possibly conclude.





The Golden Compass (2007)
starring Nicole Kidman

Cramming too much into a tiny space.

The movie follows the events of the book fairly close, but it moves so fast from one event to the other there is no time to digest anything, and they lose all meaning.

Number-one thing the movie fails to establish is that children have been disappearing from all over England. In the book, there's an entire chapter devoted to watching a child on the street snatched up and taken away, and there are rumors of people called Gobblers snatching children in the night, and they prey on children no one will know are missing, such as those of the gyptians. Lyra and her friends on the street even go on semi-play missions around town to find the Gobblers and stop them from taking anyone else.

The movie opens, there's about six lines of dialogue mentioning people called Gobblers and children going missing, and that's all we see. We don't see children taken away. We don't see how it affects any families, and Lyra personally. We barely see Roger. We barely see anyone before the movie rushes Lyra to the world of polite parties and shopping with Mrs. Coulter.

When Lyra's daemon, Pan, finds the list in Mrs. Coulter's room with the list of missing kids, and he makes the connection that General Oblation Board, of which Mrs. Coulter is the head, spells G.O.B., and that spells Gobbler, I said what? Who? Who are the Gobblers? What are they doing? Are they snatching children, and may we see some proof of this?

Lyra escapes Mrs. Coulter and ends up with the gyptians. They tell Lyra they've had so many children stolen from them, and they're going North to find them and bring them home. But wait--who are these people? Have they been losing children? It is never established that anything was going on, and now we're supposed to believe it.

The movie gives answers, but forgets to show the questions. Without getting this across, the entire movie is built on a flimsy foundation, and right from the beginning the audience is left scratching their heads.

I also asked what is the Compass (the alethiometer)? How does it work? How is Lyra reading it? The movie does not show the many levels of meaning the different symbols have, and that Lyra can see these many layers as the compass spells out the answers in its own language. In the book, Pan proposes Dust could be moving the needle, somehow communicating with them. The movie doesn't do this at all. Without showing why this works and what it accomplishes, it makes no sense.

And why does the movie establish there is only one alethiometer left? In the book, there are several still in existence, and these are important in the two latter volumes of the series. Why change that if they were planning to do a trilogy?

But the most critical thing the movie leaves out is the end of the book. The movie cuts the story off just before Lyra meets her father in the North. That's where she learns what Dust is. That's where the whole book comes together and finally--FINALLY!--we learn exactly what the Church is doing, and why, and what the whole series is about. The movie leaves all of that out, which makes the entire story a frustrating paint splatter instead of an intriguing painting to ponder: no reason to look for order and meaning in it because none exists.

The book makes it very clear that science and religion are the same thing in this universe, but the movie doesn't show this. Presumably, we're supposed to be curious what Dust is, but the movie just moves so damn fast, cramming so much story into such a tiny space that it does not feel like anything happened at all.

Oh, it looks so good. This is the world of Lyra's Oxford come to life, but for all the gorgeous visuals the movie throws at us, none of them help to tell the story.

I'm guessing the producers did not want to alienate the Catholic Church, so all references to "the Church" were changed to "Magisterium." The books are very anti-religious, and they make no secret of who is oppressing free thought. The movie goes out of its way to avoid that connection, which cheapens it.

The bears are the most disappointing. The book delves into their society, and how the new king of the bears (Iofur) is trying to change bear society to be more human. He doesn't just want a daemon; he wants to be human, which makes him vulnerable to deception. When Iorek kills Iofur, the bears are glad to be rid of him and return to their normal way of life as bears, not bears imitating humans.

The movie leaves all of that out, so all we see is a couple of bears fighting. Ok, but why? What's at stake? Nothing, as far as the audience is concerned. The book builds up to it much better, giving Lyra an active part in saving herself from captivity. Throughout the book there are entire conversations devoted to the bears, and how Iofur may be deceived. Lyra herself takes these pieces of information and puts them together into a plan to trick him into fighting Iorek to the death, even making Iofur think the plan was his own idea.

The movie gives us one line at the beginning, and somehow Lyra derives from that exactly what lie to tell to make Iofur do whatever she wants. It actually works! It's so ridiculous without more material.

In a prologue, we're told that daemons are a person's soul living outside his or her body. This should be enough to establish why separating children from their daemons is horrible, but it doesn't come into play at any point in the story. Far too much has to be explained because there's no time to show it in action. And then the movie still doesn't explain much.

That truncated ending... It ruins the whole thing! If they had ended the movie the way the book ends, with Lyra meeting her father and learning what Dust is, and why the Church--sorry, the Magisterium fears it, maybe there would be something intriguing to ponder after the credits roll. The one question the movie gives us, and it doesn't answer it! Without that, the movie is instantly forgettable.

I mean that. I watched this in 2008. When I began reading the book in 2014, I couldn't remember a single thing that happened in the film. That has never happened to me before. I have never entirely forgotten a movie! One of my roommates saw it in the theater, and when he came back he remarked that now he'll have to read the book so he can find out what he missed. He was right.

The only memorable part of the movie is Nicole Kidman. She is perfect in the role of Mrs. Coulter, playing the two-faced, cutthroat villain to perfection. But she doesn't have a lot to do, and what she is doing to these children is given no context or purpose, so in the end, her role is easily forgotten, too.

The book does so much more. With more time to show the story and establish the world and the Ch--the Magisterium, this could have been amazing. Skip the movie. Read the books. The scope of the story is enormous, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger as the series progresses. Some details and prophesies established in the first and second books do not come together very well in the third, making the finale a little disappointing, but it's still a decent conclusion. Far more memorable than the movie.


(PS--they had Kathy Bates, and they only gave her two lines?!)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

New novel

Presenting: Huvek


It's been a long time coming, but I have a new novel in print at last. This one is sci-fi. An atypical alien invasion story.

Check out its main page.

Get a taste of the story.

I write for adult minds, and I don't like to censor myself when it comes to crude language, violence and sexuality, which is why the book has an NC-17 rating :-)

This also marks the launch of my new domain name and website, jameslsteele.com.

Finally, something to celebrate on the weekend of July 4! Besides the usual of course :-)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New story published: On the Surface

It's been a long time coming, but "On the Surface" is finally online at Allasso 3.

http://pinkfoxpublications.net/on-the-surface/

This is very different from the previous story I published through them, Back Road. I was out of my element with this one, but I love how it turned out. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Seek the Original: Jurassic Park

98.2% of everything Hollywood does is adapted from a book, or short story, or comic. Never settle for an adaptation. Seek the original!

Watching a movie doesn't feel like an accomplishment. Finishing a big book, however, does.

An ebook may contain the same words as a printed copy, but the physical copy lets me see and feel the book I have just conquered. It is, on the whole, much more satisfying to finish a real book than to reach the end of a Kindle edition.

Being in a bookstore, or a library, surrounded by all those books, gives me an inspired feeling. The sight of them all, the smell of the old paper. I'm surrounded not by books, but by possibilities, and their physical presence is invigorating.

Clicking around Amazon for a book to read is not the same. There is no inspiration or possibility. I am surrounded by nothing but ads and suggested products to buy.

They say the death of the bookstore is inevitable, but I think bookstores will always be around in some form. When people realize what they have been missing this whole time, they will flock to them again.

My recent trips to the library and a bookstore reminded me of that wonderful feeling of being surrounded by possibility, and suddenly I'm not wasting my time! For the first time in many years, reading felt good! I felt like I was exploring, accomplishing something at last!

Jurassic Park was a satisfying book to finish.


Jurassic Park
by Michael Crichton



John Hammond forms the InGen corporation in the 1980's, hires the best scientists in the world and recreates the dinosaur genetic code. After buying a company that created artificial eggs, his scientists succeed in bringing 15 species of dinosaur back from extinction.

What to do with this marvelous advance in science? Why, turn it into a zoo so you can make money off it of course!

However, something is happening off the island where the park will be located. Children in Costa Rica are being attacked by strange lizards. An American girl is bitten multiple times by a small lizard. A partially eaten specimen is recovered, analyzed, and x-rays are sent to renowned paleontologist Dr. Allen Grant for identification. He thinks it resembles a species of dinosaur.

About this time, Hammond gathers his small team of experts to visit the island and give him their opinion on how things are, and so they can see just how safe and sophisticated everything is and how there is no way anything can go wrong. All of these people gave him input on the park in some way in the past, even if they didn't know it: Allen Grant, the dinosaur expert; Ian Malcolm, the mathematician who calculated the park can never work; Dr. Sattler, an expert on prehistoric plant life; Donald Gennaro, the lawyer representing the park, whose company has a 5% stake in the profits.

They reach the island off Costa Rica. Hammond and his team really have made dinosaurs, and Hammond sees his creation as something of pure wonder, sure to delight the world. Everyone else reacts with fear. They find flaw after flaw in the systems. Proof that things are, in fact, going wrong.

The dinosaurs are supposed to be all female, but an unexpected side effect of genetic engineering has allowed the dinosaurs to change gender and breed in the wild.

On top of that, the dinosaurs have mysterious health problems, and they're faster, stronger and smarter than expected.

The motion sensor tracking system has flaws that keep the scientists from seeing they have more dinosaurs on the island than expected.

And this is only the beginning of the park's problems. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and their best efforts to be prepared for the worst prove inadequate. The dinosaurs are out of their control, and now it's down to survival.

The book is about many things. Chief among them is: no matter how precise your calculations are, something will always go wrong. Ian Malcolm gives a wonderful example of a pool table. Strike a pool ball, and with good enough measurements, you can predict exactly where the ball will go hours, days, or even years into the future. But over time, tiny flaws that didn't affect calculations immediately will gradually alter the results. Imperfections in the table, or in the ball itself, for example, will alter the ball's course, making calculations impossible. What should be a simple system turns out to be unknowable after all.

It is just so with genetic engineering. The scientists of Jurassic Park claim to know the genetic code--to know what each gene does and what will happen if it is cut, rearranged, inserted into something else, and so forth; and yet even the scientists admit sometimes a protein will misfire and they'll have to start again, analyze what went wrong and rebuild the animal.

It all sounds eerily familiar 25 years after the book was published. Especially frightening is the boardroom meeting between executives of Biosyn, a rival genetics corporation, speculating on what InGen might do with their new dinosaur creation:

If InGen can make full-size dinosaurs, they can also make pygmy dinosaurs as household pets. What child won't want a little dinosaur as a pet? A little patented animal for their very own. InGen will sell millions of them. And InGen will engineer them so that these pet dinosaurs can only eat InGen pet food.

This is creepy because it echoes what's going on today, with Monsanto and like companies doing basically the same thing with plants. Patenting life. Remaking it. Tying it to profit.

Jurassic Park is about how scientists think the more they know, the more they can control, and yet there are always unintended consequences. Something always goes wrong. Something you could not expect, and what you don't know will undermine everything. It is a near-future glimpse into the world gene manipulation will create, and how it will eventually get out of control because control is impossible.

The book is full of details about the park itself, how they created it, and even why and how it came to this point. Science is no longer a purely academic endeavor, but done for profit. Profit ahead of safety or caution. The rest of the book is pure action as the people try to fend off the dinosaurs and escape the island, peppered with science-philosophy-mathematical monologues from Ian Malcolm, who spends the whole book lecturing people about how everything is hopeless. The power science has given man has outpaced man's ability to handle it. Man has a lot of knowledge, but no idea what to do with it. In time, Malcolm argues, something new will have to come along to replace science.

The visuals are sometimes difficult to grab, and the dialogue often feels too clean and unnatural. Malcolm's monologues are especially contrived. As in, there's no way a man under morphine would rattle this stuff off the top of his head. But damn it they are fascinating to read, and they pose an interesting way of looking at things.

The counterarguments other characters give are just as thought-provoking. There are always problems, but you solve them. How else can advances be made if you don't try? Problems are inevitable, but you don't run from them. You fix them. We didn't abandon the train, or the automobile, or the vaccine just because of the possibility something may go wrong, so how is Jurassic Park any different?

Malcolm's view of the world seems to be that people shouldn't try anything new because everything is doomed to fail anyway. It give's Hammond's point of view some credence. There are problems, but problems can be fixed.

Or can they? Is it all hopeless? Can we really control anything, or is everything we do--no matter how good our intentions--going to lead us down an unexpected path to ruin? That's what the book is about. Not dinosaurs, but science.

The strong points more than make up for the weak points. It's vastly different from the movie in how it turns the island into an object lesson regarding the illusion of control.


compare that to




Jurassic Park (1993)
starring Sam Neil

The movie trades the book's dire warning for visual spectacle. It works. Damn, it works. The movie's special effects were cutting edge for the time. Hard to imagine the filmmakers had to scale back the story because of the limits of computer animation and animatronics back them. They could not do Grant's and the kids' raft trip down the river to reach the visitor's center. They could not do the aviary at the time, with the pteranodon attack. They could not do the T-Rex swimming across the lagoon like a crocodile and pursuing them down the entire river. It would have been too expensive, and the special effects were so new at the time.

Almost completely gone is the warning of the dangers of genetic manipulation, and the state of science advancing purely for profit at the expense of safety. It touches on all of this, but when the CGI dinosaurs appear on the screen, it's easy to forget about the warning. The book makes sure we know what's going on here--that there is no such thing as a controlled system. The movie tries, but at best it only makes a couple clich├ęd lectures about the illusion of control. The book practically gives a logic proof!

The characters are all different. The lawyer, for example, is turned into a stereotype and is one of the first to die. In the book, he isn't exactly a hero, but he helps everyone fight for their lives, and he survives!

Then there are the kids. In both the book and the movie, Hammond brings his grandkids to the island at this critical moment because, first and foremost, he made the island to delight the children of the world. The kids are about useless in the book. Lex especially. She's supposed to be a sporty girl who's into baseball, but she spends the whole book whining about how hungry she is and she's afraid to do anything. It's Tim, her brother, who knows about dinosaurs and computers. He figures out the computer and brings the systems back online. It's Tim who baits the raptor in the kitchen and locks it in the freezer. Lex doesn't do anything but whine. Sure, she's young, but so is Tim! In the movie, the girl is much older, she's the computer nerd, and Tim is the useless one.

Grant hates kids in the movie, but he loves children in the book. Of course he would. It's always the kids who are so fascinated by dinosaurs, and he would be eager to feed their sense of wonder. It doesn't make sense for him to hate kids, and I have a feeling this was done just to have some character development. Character development is absent from the book, so the movie needed some sort of emotional center, even if it is tacked on.

John Hammond is the most different. In the movie, he's a warm, grandfather-like character with the best intentions. In the book, he's a frail old man who builds the park to make money. He's stubborn, refuses to accept the idea that something has gone wrong with the park, and it's not as simple as just getting a better team next time and preventing these mistakes next time. Malcolm tries to convince him that it's an inherent problem in the idea itself, and no matter how many times he tries, it will end up the same way. In the movie, however, Hammond does see that chaos was inevitable. He's not likable at all in the book, but in the film, he's the man I want as my grandfather! He has the best intentions, and he seems to want to delight people with what he's made.

The movie never establishes why Ian Malcolm is on the island. What possible use would a mathematician ("chaotician") be? The book explains he's the one who calculated that Hammond's park could never work because the tiny flaws in the various systems he created would become more pronounced as time went on and eventually cause the whole thing to fail. He's not very likable in the book or the movie, but in the book we understand why he's here, and what chaos has to do with anything. The movie doesn't explain this, so he's essentially useless to the plot, too.

Then the raptors. It's pretty well-known Spielberg doubled the size of the raptors in the movie to make them more terrifying on screen. In the book, as in real life, velociraptor was only about the size of a leopard. The raptors are huge in the film, and it's quite effective.

Then, during production, a fossil named Utahraptor was discovered that matched Spielberg's giant raptors. In the book, there is one raptor described as 6-feet tall, the one in the kitchen chasing the children.

The jury's still out on whether these dinosaurs had feathers, but both the book and the movie predate that idea.

The movie is a visual spectacle that oversimplifies the story into a basic monster flick. The special effects saved it then, as they do now. Nobody had ever done computer animation like this before, and it took our breath away in 1993. The effects still look good today, but strip away the special effects and you have the same basic monster-movie plot we've seen a hundred times before.

The book has a lot more to say about what went wrong with Hammond's plans. We may think we understand something, but we can never foresee the long-term effects.

So does this mean we should stop experimenting? Ian Malcolm would say, no, of course not, because we can't change the direction we're headed. Eventually, science itself will be out of control, and something else will replace it. Like him, I can't imagine what. I hope it's something that gives man more discipline for what to do with the power he gains.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Seek the Original: Mrs. Doubtfire

93.2% of everything Hollywood does is adapted from a book, or short story, or comic. Never settle for an adaptation. Seek the original!

Madame Doubtfire
by Anne Fine

Daniel Hilliard has been divorced from his wife, Miranda, for a couple years. He's an actor, so he's frequently unemployed. He just got a job doing nude modeling for an art class, but that's been his only regular job for some time. His wife, meanwhile, runs a business, and is always at work. He only gets to see his children every other weekend, and every Tuesday for tea.

But lately, Miranda has been passive aggressively shaving time off his visits. Showing up early to pick up the kids from their father's apartment. Showing up late dropping them off, robbing Daniel of precious time with his children.

So Daniel does something drastic: he responds to the ad his ex-wife takes out in the paper for a housekeeper. Disguising himself as a woman named Madame Doubtfire, he applies for the job, and Miranda is so impressed she hires him on the spot.

Before he's even hired, he tells his three children who he is, and now he gets all the time with his children he wants.

I thought this would be so much more interesting than it is. I was surprised the story takes place in England. After that wore off, I was surprised again when I found out it's actually a young adult book. And then when that shock wore off, I was surprised at Daniel's lack of motivation to take such drastic means to see his children.

Daniel doesn't lose custody of his children. He still sees them often enough, so why does he feel the need to disguise himself as a woman and take the job as his ex's housekeeper? All because Miranda is shaving a few minutes off his teatime and weekend visits? He needs child support money? That's not a big enough of a problem to merit such an extreme solution.

Furthermore, once he is Madame Doubtfire, working in his ex-wife's home, it's not really that big a deal. It makes sense he would let his children in on the act so they really could spend time with their father, but nothing of consequence happens because of this.

There are a couple seeds of ideas for how his disguise as Madame Doubtfire could have become a crucial plot development. Only once do we hear Miranda talk about Daniel and the horrible things she had to endure since the day they were married, and this could have been interesting. Daniel could have used Madame Doubtfire to figure out why their marriage fell apart, gaining a new perspective on things and finding a way to turn things around. That would have been a perfect way to use this disguise!

But this idea is unused. In fact, it succeeds in making Daniel look like a real jerk. For example: on his and Miranda's wedding day, there was a girl out in front of a grocery store giving away kittens, and she only had one left. So what does Daniel do? He cuts away from his wedding, fetches the litter his own cat just had, dumps the whole box on the girl and flees. He just gives her another litter of kittens to try to give away. In the rain. That's not funny. That makes him a real asshole.

Daniel is not a very likable person. Neither is Miranda. One has to feel for the children, caught in the middle of this, and that's what the book is about. Digging up these buried fights and bringing them to the surface. Nobody had the courage to outright say these things before, but somehow discovering her husband is Madame Doubtfire gives everyone the courage to speak these things aloud. Once the anger and resentment is out in the open, peace is possible.

But again, the whole Madame Doubtfire thing is barely necessary. Daniel says he never would have been driven to such an act if not for Miranda robbing him of his time with the kids, but it's totally uncalled for. He still sees his kids. There were a thousand better ways to deal with it. The whole business of disguising himself as Madame Doubtfire is underplayed for the absurdity of it all. The whole idea is so drastic, and it serves such a small role in overcoming a problem that is so simple.

He could have used Madame Doubtfire to understand why the marriage failed, but he doesn't, and hearing what his ex really thinks of him has no impact on him. One would think gaining a new perspective on himself would stimulate him to try to curb these behaviors, but he does not.

So much more could have been done with this idea. It needed a bigger reason to justify it, and it needed to draw more attention to the consequences.


speaking of which...




Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
starring Robin Williams and Sally Field

A lot has changed. Some for the better, some for worse.

Instead of opening a couple years after the divorce, we now see the divorce as it happens. Daniel has a much better reason to disguise himself as Mrs. Doubtfire: his wife convinces the judge that he is an unfit parent, and can't see his children.

He loves his children so much he can't stand to be apart from them, so he gets his makeup artist friend to make him a disguise so he can take the job as his ex's housekeeper. He gets the job, and now he has to deal with close-calls, the hazards of being a woman, and staying in character for weeks at at time, plus holding down a day job as janitor at a studio.

Daniel is now a voice actor, but he isn't as mean with his humor, which makes him much more likable, but he makes a questionable decision in the movie that he does not make in the book: he does not tell his children that he's Mrs. Doubtfire. They have no idea until close to the end that she's him, and this makes no sense. If his goal is to spend time with his children, why shouldn't he let them in on the ruse? If his kids don't know it's him, how is that spending time with them? The book makes more sense in this regard because they're in on it from the beginning, and they really do get to be with their father.

In both the book and the movie, the ruse falls apart when Daniel tries to be two people in the same place at the same time. The movie's reveal is much more interesting than the book because it happens in a public place. The consequences are bigger, and that's as it should be. Something this drastic deserves to have a huge impact. In the book, it barely changes anything.

The book ends with Mrs. Doubtfire's clothes in the trash, gone forever. The movie ends with Mrs. Doubtfire being used as a character of a new children's show. That'd kinda cool until you think about it. It would be like if Mr. Rogers turned out to be a woman dressed as a man. Would that sit right with any parent once word gets out? Would a studio take that risk? I doubt it, but it's a cute idea.

The movie ends with the possibility of the family getting back together. It's a nice ending note, but as someone who has seen that tried, I know it rarely works when two people get back together after a split. You think things have changed, but they never have. I actually prefer the book's ending. There's no hope of Daniel and Miranda getting back together, but there is hope things will be more amiable.

Overall I think the movie is better than the book. It takes the idea and gives it a bigger reason, with bigger consequences. It's the focus of the story now. But even the movie makes a few changes that hurt its case. Robin Williams' performance sells the whole concept, and it's worth seeing for that alone.


(Thanks to Renee Carter Hall for letting me have her copy of the book.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Author's cycles

I'm tired of thinking I should be doing something productive. Always should be doing something else--no matter what I do, it's never the thing I should be doing right now.

I always get like this right before I'm ready to write again. Can't give attention to anything. Even when reading I feel like I should be doing something else. Reading, playing games, watching TV or what have you, I always get the feeling that I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing, so I tend to bounce from one thing to another, unable to commit to any one thing for very long. Everything I do, except writing a novel. Writing novels is the only time I don't feel like I'm wasting my time and I need to be doing something else.

Just have to wait it out. My head will clear up eventually and then I'll be ready to do things again. It hasn't always been this way. Just the last few years I get like this. I binge for months on a project, then take a few months off and start again. But in the last few years, I started to grapple with this new feeling. I miss the days before I started feeling like this. More than ever, I want these cycles to end.

If there's a name for this feeling, someone please tell me. I look forward to the other side, when it passes and I'm ready to focus on things again.