Sunday, January 20, 2008

Time of Day

Week two of the blog and think I did rather well with it. I think I need to start picking a time of day to set aside and work on "my" things rather than the other projects I have to do. Otherwise it just gets too easy to put things aside in the name of work. And while work pays the bills, I'd also like to be doing more. Which was the whole purpose of keeping this in the first place.

Only times really left to be uninterrupted and sort of "me time" is either in the early mornings, or thee late evenings. And while I like mornings, and have found them to be productive, I don't like actually having to get up to experience them. On the other hand, I used to work great in the evenings (and that's when the first major works got written way back when) but have found that to be less so as time goes on. I do seem to be less distracted in the evenings, which counts for something I guess.

Of course, with the writers on strike and nothing on tv, I may find myself in front of the computer more often. But I think ti shouldn't take an angry labor movement to accomplish that.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

color words

Learned an interesting tidbit the other day while on the way to work. Listening to the radio, and the guest on the NPR show (or it might have been PRI - six of one half dozen of another) was commenting on her study of languages. It turns out that not every culture has words for colors like English and many of the other western languages do. In fact, in some cultures int ehir language colors are either some variation of black and white, or they relate to a specific object. Orange, for example, is relatively new, so in Dutch it's actually a reference to China because that's where the oranges they ate came from.

The other aspect I found interesting was how sometimes even parts of speech play different roles. In English, for example, it's the nouns that are often the most important. In many of the Nati8ve American languages however, it's the verbs which have greater importance. Thus objects are referred to in phrases, often including a verb. This is also, for example, why a lot of those Indian names have a verb to them. (Think "Dances with wolves" or "Stand with a fist" for example.)

This of course leads to an interesting possibility when creating new cultures in writing. Rather than assuming they all relate to things in ways we are used to, what if they don't? I's sort of the old idea that the Inuit have seven different words for "snow." They don't, of course, what they have is different terms for different kinds of snow, but likewise the concept of a palm tree would be lost on them. So if you have aliens or fantastical races, you start having to think about what might be important in their culture/world, and how that might shape their language.

Which I for one, had not given much though to before.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Death of Originality

Well, whatever else I was going to write about just got tossed. One of my favorite new shows has been canceled, and while I'm not surprised I am of course disappointed. (Though it's one less distraction, right? Wrong. I don't watch that much tv anyway. I haven't watched American Idol since I lived overseas and there was nothing else on the satellite.) Of course, this latest victim is just indicative of the utter dearth of imagination that plagues the average TV exec - and dare I say the average TV viewer that elevates the mindless dreck of the reality show and the "so cliched it hurts and yet we're still aiming for the LCD (lowest common denominator) of humor so we'll retread the fart jokes or angry mother in law endlessly" sit-com.

Seriously, has anyone bothered to actually watch these shows? When was the last time a sit-com was funny without retreading the same jokes? Yet those shows are given ample to time to succeed, or at least achieve mediocracy. Sure, some of them are true gems, and I enjoy them, but mostly I don't find them funny. I'm no humor Philistine, either, I like the Stooges and the Marx brothers. Pixar's short "Lifted" which was very much in the vein of classic physical comedy is hands-down the funniest thing I've seen in a long time. But I also like cerebral jokes, too, and if the humor is low-brow I'd prefer it wasn't condescending.

Equally unexpected was that this one was a sci-fi show (time travel) though they kept the geek factor low. Those never succeed, or at least very rarely. For every Battlestar Galactica that makes its, and shows why these shows should succeed, there's a Flash Gordon that argues for pulling the plug. Journeyman fell somewhere between those, but much more on the end of BG than FG. (Hey, there's a certain symmetry to that comparison, isn't there. I guess we could label this latest casualty a CG or DG level show... Or not, having realized there's only so far you can push any literary device.)

The only good thing is that like many shows, knowing the writer's strike was imminent, they wrapped up the major plot points. There was plenty of room left to explore, but at least the faithful few - far too few apparently - won't be left hanging.

Monday, January 14, 2008


While sometimes places have those little cutesy names I mentioned last week, at other times you look at a place and wonder what the name on the sign could possibly have to do with anything. And sometimes that lends itself to a whole host of "what if" type ideas. For instance, near a park where I take my daughter there is a little nondescript building. It looks very much like some VFW hall or some other venerable establishment meeting hall. The Elk's club could meet there and feel at home.

I have no idea what the the place really is, though I suspect it's something like that, but it's called "Dante's." Now this may just be the effects of a semi-classical education, but to me a place that shares a name with someone most famous for laying out the architecture of Hell ought not to be a place for late-middle aged approaching senior citizens to hang out for Sunday brunch. (Which reminds me, I haven't been to a good Sunday buffet brunch in I don't know how long. Have to fix that sometime soon, I think.) Which brings to mind all sorts of hidden - possibly nefarious - purposes that the building could be "really" used for.

And it's kind of an ideal location for it, too. After all, who expects the minions of Hades, or other supernatural undesirables, to hang out amidst the semi-suburban neighborhoods where this building sits? It's across the street from a playground, after all. (Evil thoughts here of a monster's Sunday buffet, I suppose.) Of course, that's one of the reasons I like the place so much. I know it has a mundane purpose, and therefore haven't looked it up because I'd just as soon not know for sure, but imagining all the other purposes it COULD be used for, an that would fit its name so much better is a lot of fun.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tipping Point

Ever have one of those days where you know you ought to get stuff done, and you meant o get stuff done, but you keep putting it off? Not with the intent of not doing anything, mind you, just sort of taking care of other things first. Other things that are likely not as important, and certainly not as crucial. You think to yourself in the morning, or in the early afternoon that you'll have plenty of time and then... suddenly you're looking up at the clock and it's late afternoon, practically early evening. Now you have to start thinking about cooking dinner, and the evening's wearing on...

Somewhere in there is a tipping point, when you realize that all your carefully laid plans just aren't going to happen. Oh, sure, you'll still get something done, probably working later in the evening instead of watching television or something else fun, and you'll justify it by saying you did get it done. But really, shouldn't the work have come first? Of course it should have. So why didn't it?

I personally think procrastination is just a cop-out. It's a way of saying, yeah, I knew this was important but I put it off anyway. For no good reason, and now I'm just going to hope it doesn't come back to bite me. At some point you have to stop putting things off. Not sure how that's accomplished, mind you, and if I had a sure-fire cure I could patent it and become rich.

If I ever got around to it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Hmm, wondering how long I can keep the one-word title thing going... Not that it's been that long yet. Turn it into a month long challenge and then maybe I'll have something. At least then I'd be motivated about something.

I have one more day here - if I'm counting Sunday as part of the previous week, which it ought to be, because after all it's called the "weekend" right? hard to be the end if it starts the week, no matter what the calendar says. Though it does bring into question why the calendar does start with Sunday. Probably religious reasons, I'm guessing, though even still it is supposed to be the seventh day... Well, now at some point I'm going to have to research it. Or post the question some where and let other people research it for me. The web makes it really easy to be lazy about that sort of stuff. Besides, I'm not sure how you'd search for the answer to that question anyway. I could always look it up on some of the user-written encyclopedias - we all know which one - but then there's no way to guarantee veracity. Plus I doubt anyone's actually done that.

I could go look, but I do have things I need to get done. Though, as any method actor would say, I'm having trouble finding my motivation.

Not that I don't have practical motivations. There are bills to pay. But that's hardly reasons to get excited. It might seem a little odd to expect to be excited about your work, but I've always felt that was important. You should WANT to clock in, metaphorically or literally speaking. And while that may be strictly a middle class sentiment, or at least often articulated as such, I'm not sure it is. After all, there is talk of the working classes being "proud of" the work they accomplish. I think that's largely the same thing - having a feeling of not only accomplishing something but tackling a task that you can look back on and claim with some sense of self-satisfaction.

And right now, I don't have it. At least for what I ought to be doing.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Routines are good. Properly accompanied by discipline, they can help shakes us out of ennui. Or at the very least ensure we actually get something done during the course of a day. My problem today is only one part ennui, the other is a headache that's appeared out of nowhere. Might be connected to something else, but the bulk of the problem is just the inability to retain any sense of excitement about any project when I actually sit down at the computer. I have ideas doing dishes, or driving in the car... and then I sit down and seem to find ways to piddle away the day without getting anything done that I wanted. Including that project I'm being paid for.

On the other hand, by establishing a routine and sticking to it, it's one step closer to being able to set and keep goals. Because they're all about the same thing: a little bit of discipline. It's not enough to have an idea for the blog, for example, unless you actually put it down. So establishing a routine can also help turn ideas into action. Like this one. And you can start to feel good about them too, even if you don't see immediate results. Sort of like exercise. Those first few weeks it's tough to no notice any tangible results - at least for ordinary people Not those "I gained biceps the size of bowling balls in two weeks on the X-Flex!" people.

(Oh, hey, that's a good fake product name. I'll have to remember that.)

But if you stick with it, you can start to feel good after the first couple of days just because you are sticking with it. It gives that little mini sense of accomplishment. That, hopefully, you can turn to other things with. (I'm discovering that mental attitude and emotional states are often vicious circles. Sounds like psycho-babble, but oddly enough it bears out in the real world.)

Routines can be bad, too. One of mine is to procrastinate because I know how long it will take me to do something. And so I put it off to the last minute. And then something goes wrong and I'm scrambling to make deadline. Actually, that's more of a habit. A bad one. Ignore that.

Routines can be bad, though, if we replace purpose with routine, or use it to avoid something else. I have a real sympathy for those who suffer legitimately from OCD (and want to break the knees of every corporate go-getter who jokes about it). I can see the comfort in having a certain routine, and also the pernicious way it can slowly but surely over take your life. (Excuse me while I straighten the knick-knacks on my shelf.)

We can also get too locked into a routine, so that we don't take advantage of other opportunities that are out there. It's all very well to order a latter everyday if that's what you like, but if you don't deviate once in a while and actually try the coffee of the day, you might miss out on something good. Which is why next time I'm in the donut shop, I'll be ordering something other than Boston Creme. ... Maybe.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


There are days when I think academia has become overspecialized. Everyone seems to feel the need to narrow down their field to these little sub-sub-sub fields, and then hold everything else in exclusion. Aside from creating too narrow a world-view, I think this also tends to skew perspectives on what's important. Academics start to think that their little niche is more important than anything else.

I got to thinking about this because of a text I'm working on. Not writing it myself, mind you, but editing it after a series of writers have been at it. And while there was this lengthy discussion on a particular ancient civilization, there was almost nothing on more recent events such as World War II. What really struck me as odd as this particular civilization was not one I'd heard of before, certainly not in any kind of academic context. And yet there they were, with an entire page to themselves. Meanwhile the events of WWII got a short shrift. No mention of Vichy France, or the Battle of Britain, or anything else like that.

And this wasn't something that was supposed to be more focused on the ancient civilizations, either. Moreover, it was the only such civilization, apart from Greece and Rome, given that much space. Not even Egypt, which the text admitted was a bigger civilization, got the full page treatment.

Which begs the question, if this wasn't written by someone who specializes in that particular civilization, what rational person looked at this and decided that there needed to be THAT much info on them, when it didn't match up with the others? It's almost as though somewhere along the line, someone decided there wasn't enough, or perhaps nothing at all, and then overcompensated.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Quirky Shop Names

One of the things that strikes me about these little villages is that they're one of the few places where store owners can get away with the cutesy little names. You know the ones, where the name makes use of a pun or some other little quirky twist of language. They can be lots of fun, but they're the kind of name that would be laughed out of the mall. Which is probably why they aren't in the mall in the first place.

Sometimes they can go over the top. I think a good name for a little shop like that should be something that makes you smile without making you groan out loud and how bad the pun was. In a mall, of course, they get squeezed out just by the cost of rent, but even in the village they're often competing alongside the big brand names. (What village doesn't have a Starbucks, after all? Heck, they're everywhere.) So this little cutesy, punny names help them stand out, I think, and breed a certain amount of brand loyalty.

Though you have to wonder if the owners are ever self-conscious about it. On the one hand, there's only so many ways to say "shoe store" without resorting to "Sal's Shoes" or something similar. Beyond that, a certain creativity becomes a must if you're going to stand out. Hence the "Mad About Shoes" I saw the other day, which I thought was kind of clever. The "French Lessons" shop, which was a fashion boutique, struck me as a tad pretentious, though given the generally upscale nature of the cars parked on the street, perhaps not.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Village Mouse

I discovered this morning that I'm neither a city mouse nor a country mouse. I'm a village mouse. I like someplace with some shops, but not a mall, close borders but more than one stop light (or intersection). Someplace that has it's own school, perhaps, an at least two churches. And ideally a nice little river and a central town square that actually is the center of town. I realized this visiting such a place today. Though it was more of a suburb, and nicely affluent albeit slightly far-flung suburb, it did have the river and the shops. And I like those places better. Cities are too crowded and impersonal, the countryside too remote and isolated.

Oddly enough, now that I have more than one central, recurring character that I'm tossing ideas around for, I find that one of them is a city mouse, and the other a country mouse, and that neither of them occupies the space between. In both of them I guess I'm exploring the appeals of both locales. There are things I like about the big city, and honestly that's where I've lived the past decade plus now of my life. (Not in the same city, but three of them - aside from a brief bit in a college town.) So I have my city character, someone who needs the hustle and bustle. And I have my country character, who seeks the solitude and open spaces.

There's more to it than that, as my country character does venture into the city. Though so far my city character does not head out to the country, and I guess that's often typically the way it is. If you live too far out, either someone has to bring you supplies, or else you have to go get them. And since none of us live off the land directly anymore, that means a city, even if it's a small one. On the other hand, if you're in the city, there is often little reason to leave other than the infrequent vacation. I suppose the appeal of village - ok, remote and affluent suburb - is the illusion of having both, even if it is more town than country.

But that's okay. No one ever said you should have to give up your illusions. That's what fiction's all about anyway, isn't it?

Monday, January 7, 2008


Another year gone and past. Obviously not everything got accomplished - wasn't very resolute in my resolutions as it were, but still some progress was made. I'd like to justify not getting much accomplished writing wise by saying the constraints of real life impeded me, but of course that would be a bit of a cop-out. Truth is I have things to send out and things almost finished, and there's no real excuse for not getting those done.

So, let's start here: I'm going to try and write a little here each day, as I planned on doing six months ago. (Which did not go to plan, as is rather evident by the previous entry having been posted back at the end of August.) This will still be the place to collect various thoughts and ideas, and strictly writing related more or less. Given I've never been one to be at a loss for words, there's no excuse for not starting here, and jump-starting every day by getting some thoughts down and the creative, or at least literary, process going.

And a couple of goals for this coming month:
  1. send out a submission a week. Doesn't have to be big, short stories will do, but something.
  2. finish the "editing" that keeps me from finishing those last chapters
  3. finish those last chapters
  4. if I can't work on something new each day, work on something old. Plenty of wip's in the folder.

Not starting a the beginning of the month, true, so there's some procrastination built in already. It's a good start, though.