Another Day in Casting

I didn’t move the writing career forward today, but I still have acting to fall back on. I went to a cattle-call today for a small film that will be in production for a couple of months later this summer. This casting is different than any of the others I’ve been to – this one’s for an actual role in the film and I would be working a couple of weeks or more, rather than days. I was applicant 99, to give you an idea of what the odds are. There were four male roles possible, but I was clearly unqualified for two of them, and it would be a reach for one of the remainders. The last role, however, ex-pat retired war photographer hanging out in Prague, I think I have a good look for. I’ll be interesting to see if I get called back to read. In the end, they’ll probably want someone with more experience, but heck, you never know.

Surprisingly, one thing I did pull off well was the chit-chat. Even after the video camera was turned off I hung out and shot the breeze with the director, talking about life in San Diego and Mexico, travel, and bars in Montana. As we were walking back to the waiting room he said, “We’re a low-budget production, you realize.” “That’s fine,” I replied, “I’m a low-budget guy!” I may be reading too much into it, but I took that as a hopeful sign.

Which marks another difference this time around. Each of the other casting calls I dropped by, thinking “ah, what the heck, it’ll only take a few minutes, no big deal.” Each time I thought afterwards that I would not get a call. This time I find myself actually caring whether I get the gig or not. That can’t be good.

It was Graybeard who tipped me off to the opportunity, and after we were done with the casting I hung out with him and one of his bevy of ridiculously beautiful young lady friends. Gotta hand it to the old boy, he is a charmer and he’s not afraid to use it. We found a nearby café with a very nice atmosphere and settled in for a while, discussing this and that. With Graybeard the conversation never stays in the same place very long; you need mental springs and you just have to expect that few topics — or even sentences on your part — will be completed. Beautiful Lady Friend got bored and for a while I was in smile-and-nod mode, but things got interesting again when Graybeard started telling stories from his past.

It’s not my place to give too many details here, but I think it’s OK for me to mention that he has been to prison a time or three, sometimes for long stretches, and you don’t want to piss him off. I made a mental note not to hit on Beautiful Lady Friend (hence no worries about a more appropriate nickname), even after Graybeard mentioned she had no boyfriend. He wants that honor.

Which made it even more complicated when BLF left and Isolde arrived. (I have probably mentioned her before with a different nickname, but it would too much work to go look it up now.) Isolde used to date Graybeard, and they are still close enough to spend their time sniping at each other, just like old times. Isolde wanted to go to a movie, French with Czech subtitles. Graybeard did not want to see it as he knows no French or Czech, but out of sheer nobility I agreed to go to the movies with a pretty girl. The sacrifices I make. I missed some of the subtle elements of the plot, like what people said to each other, but still enjoyed the flick — despite the lack of scruffy, gray-bearded actors.

Well dip me in Yahoo and roll me in Google.

It is time once again, members of the muddled masses, to ask the question, “just what the hell is everyone doing here?” While it is true that the occasional visitor does come here on purpose, many, many lost souls are tossed up on the shores of Muddled Island by a random correspondence between words typed into a search engine and words that appear here. There are a lot of words here at Muddled Ramblings, 200,000 or so, and the diligent robots at Google and Yahoo have cataloged each and every one.

Occasionally I will obfuscate a word by adding s p a c e s to prevent those same diligent robots from becoming attracted to this episode, so that future searches will continue to yield the desired page elsewhere in the Muddleverse. Also, I like saying obfuscate. Obfuscate, obfuscate, obfuscate.

  • james bond silk banners – linked to the first episode in my James Bond adventure.
  • Haiku black hole – linked to an episode about my descent into (and emergence from) a black hole.
  • rock stacking in the desert – linked not to my page about rock stacking, but instead to my episode about NOT stacking rocks.
  • A Next Generation Junior High  S c h o o l G i r l  Idol in Japan – linked to the Observations category page, attracted primarily to my musings about the downside to being a  s c h o o l g i r l  in Japan.
  • goodbye amy – linked to an episode in which I said goodbye to many people, some of whom I will never see again.
  • white tigers and liberec – apparently they have some in their zoo up there. I’m more interested in the hockey team, although they were swiftly eliminated by the Beers this year.
  • team bowling gamesmine is the best.
  • automatic counting chicken – hmm… that would go great next to my whistling squirrel. Surprisingly, Yahoo put me right at the top of the search results for this episode.
  • allright mr demille,i am ready for my close-up – linked to an episode about my first day of work on the upcoming blockbuster James and the Giant Explosive Device
  • speech writing sucks – that’s why you have assistants, Mr. Bush. I’ve lost track of what on this site attracted that link to this site.
  • supernatural subtitles download – linked to my episode about Cutey Honey Flash. The version I watched just had normal subtitles.
  • capt. kirk “valley of fire” buried – the top match for this phrase was a particularly salaciously-titled post-Las Vegas ramble.
  • “I like this bar” – brought a reader to a discussion of my first trip to the closest bar to where I know live.
  • giraffes as beast of burden – linked to the stories category page, where I talk about a story that is lost in the mists of time
  • cat heaving – yes, someone searched for that. This chapter one ranked fifth at Google for that phrase.
  • hot teacher sex nun pics face army – wow. Amazingly, the stories category page had all these things, but nothing that comes close to what I imagine this googler was looking for (although I wonder if the searcher had any idea either).
  • step-by-step information on laws of thermodynamics – I’d never thought of a natural law as a procedure before, but it is a natural segue to an episode about eggs.
  • scary squirrels and annoying neighbors game – of all the potential matches on this site, Google pointed this searcher to an episode about a shitty bar in Pacific beach
  • rock stacking in hawaii – I am not the only one to call anti-stackism to the attention of the world.
  • she has nice gams – Top match on Yahoo linked to the first episode of Feeding the Eels, which reminds me…
  • short film ideas bowling funny – all that and more can be found here in the Muddleverse!
  • what determines how drunk you get – I do! linked to an episode at a bar in Bozeman, Montana.
  • “p e e  for distance” – linked to a side discussion about how a man can measure his age.
  • The sun was shining brightly. It was a fine Sunday morning when the – seems like they typed out most of it anyway, not much point in searching. This fine Sunday morning was the top match, though.
  • trombone autumn leaves moan plunger – I would like to see a guest poem that uses this line. Anyone? Anyone?
  • bad  s e s t i n a – while not technically a  s e s t i n a, this poem caught the searcher’s eye.
  • brain vibrations – early morning – linked to an episode about a good morning in New Mexico
  • metaphor + skin + “my life as a fake” – linked to the main page, just about the only top match that wasn’t what the searcher was probably looking for.
  • teenage  n y m p h s – got an improbably high match with my new understanding of Japanese culture.
  • name of soap worn by teacher in movie scent of a woman – this might be the most useless piece of trivia ever! Linked to the Stories page, where there is talk of soap, and women, and movies, but not all at the same time.
  • a shot video that shows a pitcher then a scary person pops up and scars the crap out of anyone – Top Yahoo match linked to the Pirates! category page, where there is talk of a pitcher, and scars
  • american road trip cult map – So you can find nice cults to hang out with on your trip, I suppose.
  • d e l i c t i o n – I just coined the word and already the world is jumping on the bandwagon.

Of course, many, many people came by to learn the art of frying an egg, and the lyrics to a silly but violent anime theme song has become a big attraction. googli is popular among foreign searchers, and people coming here to find pictures (or pitchers) of ocelots regularly have their hopes dashed.

Piker Press Anniversary Issue

Each year Piker Press puts out an anniversary issue, in which they take a trip back down memory lane, finding choice morsels from the the past. It’s a good chance to acquaint yourself with the many contributors over there. In the words of Senior Editor Alexandra Queen: “We traditionally run not neccessarily the best, but some of the most memorable articles, stories and comics from the past four years. Or sometimes we run the ones we haven’t thought about for a while. It’s less like the Oscars than like flipping through a family photo album.” I have been enjoying reading stories by some of the folks from before my time.

I was curious to see which of my pieces they might choose to run, if any. Last year they put Tin Can in the anniversary issue, which was a bit of a surprise but not an unpleasant one. It made me go back and look over the story and I discovered that I liked it more than I thought I did. I’ve even fixed it up a bit and submitted to another magazine that doesn’t mind doing reprints.

This time around I could think of a few articles that I thought would be anniversary-worthy, from the bittersweet celebration of life in Earthchuckle to the spooky Serpent to the downright silly Hell-Cricket. Well, I do have a piece in there this week, and once again the choice was a surprise. They are re-running Storm of the Century, the epic story of one man’s drive to salvation, and how he saved a quarter-tank of gas on the way.

OK, maybe ‘epic’ isn’t the right word. But it is fun, and I enjoyed reading it again. It was an experiment of sorts, trying a different narrative style and intentionally under-edited.

Makes me want to go write a short story…

I Murdered a Pot Tonight

Let us all pause for a moment of silence, as we remember the pot.

It all started this afternoon when I went to a bar in my ‘hood that I had not visited before. I went in and sat down in a position that completely disrupted the place. It is a regulars bar, and apparently there is assigned seating. I plunked down and threw the entire joint into doubt and uncertainty. I did not stay long; they didn’t have food and I was one hungry pup. Still, it was beer on an empty stomach, and that’s never good. The Czech hockey championships were on, so I went to the Little Café Near Home – not renowned for their vittles but I enjoy watching hockey with the folks there. I had a snack there and resolved to have more when I got home.

Home I got, and while the larder is traditionally spare, I did have rice. Perfect! I put a pot on the stove with plenty of water, and then came in here to write about download day.

I forgot about the pot.

Time for bed, and luckily I had to pass through the kitchen to perform my evening cleansing rituals. I heard the hiss of the stove and looked over to see a pot, formerly lined with enamel, blackened on the bottom and the enamel on the sides of the pot slumping. I turned off the gas and now the apartment is filled with a smell reminiscent of burned popcorn. We’ll send a forensic team in tomorrow morning to fully assess the potworthiness of the vessel, but I expect it will be time for me to go pot shopping pretty soon.

Download Day

I subscribe to eMusic.com, a damn fine way to load up on good tunes without ripping off the musicians. For fifteen bucks a month I can download sixty-five tracks, and I can feel good about it because the giant record label assholes don’t get squat. The right people get paid. And let’s face it, the big label’s sales are slumping not because of piracy but because the independent labels have done a better job moving with the times. Indy sales are up.

So today was download day. On what, out of the vast musical universe, did I blow my precious sixty-five? I’m glad you asked!

  • Johnny Cash, The Sun Sessions, Vol 1. – nothing left to say, except listen again to I Walk the Line, and listen to the Man in Black hum, slightly discordant, as he introduces the next refrain. Step back in awe.
  • Orchestral Works Of Liadov – Symphony Orchestra of Russia under Veronika Dudarova – still digging into Russian orchestral stuff. It’s a good trip.
  • Giggles in the Dark – Lesbians on Ecstacy – not sure what to make of this one yet. Riot Grrrl remixed. I think I like it.
  • The Time Of The Preacher by Johnny Cash– off the No Depression: What It Sounds Like Vol. 1 album, and way better than any other track on the disk. Johnny Cash goes Seattle and the result just plain rocks.
  • Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven by godspeed you! black emperor – I can’t describe it, I just like it. Someone somewhere said ‘post-rock’, but I call it music.
  • Golden Ocean by 50 Foot Wave – After the debut EP, I have been waiting anxiously for more from these guys. I was not disappointed. This album rocks all over the place.

Good tunes, man, good tunes.

Episode 19: Nest of Vipers – Part 1

Note: To read the entire story from the beginning click here.

I tried to ignore the feeling that there was a bulls-eye painted on my back as I inspected the doorway where Alice had been standing. The only reason to take her, I told myself, was to force me to do something I didn’t want to do. That meant whoever had done it wanted me alive, and I would be hearing from them eventually. I looked back at the door of The Bucket in time to see the man I had been speaking with hurry down the street. It wouldn’t be long before the cops arrived, and I wasn’t eager to be talking to them at the moment.

It didn’t look like Alice had made it easy for them; the scuffs on the sidewalk told a story of struggle. She had managed to run two strides before they wrapped her up and dragged her to a car. Near the curb I saw dark spots on the pavement. I hunched down and confirmed that it was blood, fresh but quickly blistering and blackening in the heat. I surveyed the windows looking down on the street. Someone must have seen something. I made a note to have Alice ask around and then stopped myself.

Someone had crossed a line. I wanted to find out who they were before they had a chance to contact me, so I could drop in on them before they were ready.

I turned my head one way and then the other as I regarded the scuff marks. One, from a smaller shoe, seemed to be more complex, as if created with intent. A hastily-drawn arrow, perhaps, or maybe the letter ‘F’. Possibly nothing at all; it’s easy for a person to see patterns even when there are none. If it was an arrow it pointed up the street away from the bar and towards downtown. If it was a letter, perhaps F for Fanutti? An E she didn’t have time to finish? I moved my foot along the lines, imagining that I was being dragged to a car, and just trying to stay in one place long enough to finish my message, without anyone realizing what I was doing.

I heard a siren in the distance. Time to go. I turned and walked briskly away from the scene, by coincidence in the direction of the arrow, if that’s what it had been. I zigged and zagged a few blocks then bellied up to a phone. I pulled Cello’s card out of my pocket and regarded it grimly. This call could cost me. I threw a dime in and dialed.

The phone was answered almost before it rang. “Hendricks and Associates,” a competent female voice answered.

“Charles Lowell. Cello is expecting my call.”

“One moment.”

After somewhat more than a moment Cello came on the line. “Mr. Lowell. You have something for me?”

“Depends. Did you take her?”

“You have lost track of someone?”

“Yes. Did you take her?”

“I assume you wouldn’t bother to ask if it was Mrs. Fanutti you lost track of. Has something happened to your charming secretary?”

“Yes.”

“You put her in harm’s way?”

“…yes.”

“Most ungentlemanly, Mr. Lowell.” He hesitated. “I am not aware of anyone in my purview taking action against Miss Carruthers. I feel no need to coerce your actions.”

“Good.”

“It is likely that no matter who is holding her I could obtain Miss Carruthers’ release. I offer only because I admire the young lady. There are certain… ah… costs that I would incur, however. I think you already know what I would like in return. Shall I direct my people?”

“You already know who has her.”

He paused. “I have a theory.”

“They are not friends of yours.”

“No.”

“Give me an address. I’ll pay you back by hurting them as much as I possibly can.”

“An interesting proposition. Unfortunately, there are three problems: first, ‘as much as you can’ likely will prove to be very little, second, once they brush you aside they will have no reason to keep Miss Carruthers alive any longer, and finally if they find out how you got that address, it could cause me a great deal of difficulty.”

“Then give me the name of someone else who knows the address, and I’ll get it from him.”

“One way or another.”

“That’s right.”

“That’s not your usual style, Mr. Lowell.”

“They crossed a line.”

“Hm. Did they cross the line, or did you? Are you responding this way because you blame yourself?”

“Does it matter?”

“I suppose not. Before you go charging off to your death, I don’t suppose you’d care to tell me Mrs. Fanutti’s whereabouts?”

“No.”

“You have not yet recovered the Blood of the Saint?”

I didn’t answer that.

He sighed. “I am going to help you, Mr. Lowell, because you are an important asset to me right now. Please remember that and try to remain one. It is the only thing keeping you alive. I have a name for you. When you speak with him, be aware that he has already saved your life once.”

Tune in next time for the conclusion of: Nest of Vipers!

Tired

Today I worked on a story that has been rejected once. The changes weren’t big, but the thing does read a bit better now. It’s a little less cluttered; I think I was trying to fit a novella into a fairly long short story. A bit after lunchtime I repaired to bíl

Why Writers are Neurotic

Ask any publisher, any literary agent, any writer’s family and friends, and they will tell you: writers are a messed-up bunch. They don’t know the half of it.

First, the obvious: rejection sucks. I get back the form letter saying “not right for us at this time” and I find myself wondering what to do with this work that is obviously crap. I liked it before, and even when I read it now I think it’s pretty good which just goes to show what a talentless hack I am thinking something like that is good because obviously it’s not. It got rejected. So I could submit it somewhere else but why the hell should I bother? Crap’s crap the world around.

Far worse than rejection is Limbo. I send something in, and they say they usually reply within twelve weeks. Now it’s been three months (do the math). Nothing. I don’t want to be that annoying writer that pesters the publisher, but thoughts start to pile up. Maybe it fell between the cracks. Maybe they never got it. The postage has changed since I sent the SASE; maybe the response is lost in a bureaucratic muddle. Hanging over me is the question: When is it all right to submit the work to another market? Do I check with the first magazine to get verification that I am not under consideration there, or does that just make me a pest? For a writer, there is no level of hell lower than limbo.

Another thing: Everybody has a friggin’ story. When I’m in a bar talking to the dentist on the next stool, I won’t mention my teeth, and I don’t want to hear his story idea.

Other writers. God we’re an insufferable bunch. Actually, that’s an unfair generalization. Writers who have branded themselves artists, I do not like to hang around. Strutting preening iceholes, intent on establishing their pecking order. They don’t have conversations, they have cluster monologues, working to establish their personality cults like they’re Kerouac or something. Most of all I hate the person I become in their presence; I join their game. It’s the Sharks and the Jets right there in the cafe/bookstore. At the bottom of this folly lies the assumption that “ideas” are not just redemptive but vital, and that writers are rescuing humanity by exposing these ideas. People don’t read ideas, and people don’t read most of the tumescent drek this crowd serves up. You want to inform humanity? Write about humans. The ideas will fall out of the writing or you’ve simply told a good story. It’s cool either way.

“Hello? Helloooooooo…” Just because I’m sitting at your table in the restaurant doesn’t mean I’m with you. When I get that distant look in my eye, I’m working, dammit. Leave me alone. I am working all the time. Sometimes I can turn down the intensity and pretend to be with you. Most of the time, not. If that bothers you, go chat up the dentist on the next stool.

Expectations. Some of the words I write may make you think I’m sensitive, or caring, or thoughtful. I am a writer. I make stuff up. That’s my job. The people I create, even the bad guys, are much finer humans than I am, unburdened by the need to act without months of deliberation; that’s why you enjoy reading about them. I am spontaneously awkward, and rather a jerk at that. Except when I’m not, which is most of the time. I just made that up to make a point. You see how it is?

The greatest source of neurosis of all (although Limbo is a very close second): great literature. Nothing fills me with the need to write more than reading the work of a master. I read something transcendent, lyrical and wise, and the moment of beauty is besmirched – I will never write that.

But still I write.

Selling Soap – Life On Set

Ah, the glamor, the heady days of wine, women and song! Ah, the grinding tedium and long hours.

My life as a fake lab assistant began in the inky black long before dawn. I wasn’t sure how frequent the metro was that early in the morning, so I gave myself plenty of time to wait for the train and to make my connection. As a result, I was at the designated meeting point long before I needed to be. Better early than late, I figure, proving that I am not Czech. It was raining, so I stood in the shelter of the metro station entrance and waited to be collected.

More folks arrived, and then a production assistant showed up to gather us in. There were perhaps ten or so of us there, and the assistant had with her a list of the people she was expecting. My name was not on the list. “Great,” I thought, “I can go back to sleep.” No such luck; apparently I was a special extra, and those on the list were mere garden-variety extras. Even now I’m not sure what the distinction is, except I probably got paid more than those on the list. It’s good to be special.

At 6:15 we marched over to the empty factory building that housed the set, and shortly I was sent to wardrobe, where I was given slacks to wear instead of jeans, while the other guy in there was given jeans to wear instead of slacks. I was given a different sweater and warned that it would be cold on set. Over to makeup where they did a quick paint job on my face but left my beard scruffy, then breakfast. One thing I’ll say about this production, they had good grub, and plenty of it.

The production manager filled me in on what was going on. “You will be working in a funny mad scientist’s laboratory.” The lab-coated extras huddled in a knot and we were eventually deployed around a large set filled with old electronics and lots and lots of chemistry equipment, dish washers, and various permutations of the dishwasher detergent we were selling. All around were flasks filled with brightly-colored liquids, but as I watched, all but the blue ones were emptied into a bucket. And so began a long, slow pattern. They would set things up according to the plan. The gaffers would set up the lighting, the extras would be given their assignments, and the directior would decide he didn’t like it. An unplanned hour would pass as they redid everything, and then we would go through a series of rehersals to make sure the lab would appear uniformly busy.

The second shot of the day took especially long. The accident-prone scientist is walking through the lab and everyone is avoiding him. I was given a tray of glasses and was quite relieved when a PA taped them down. I was the last one the scientist encountered in the sequence, so my timing was dependent on how all the other encounters went.

“More glasses on the tray,” the director said, “and don’t stick them down.” So now I’m holding a tray full of glasses and dodging the main guy while going down stairs. We did lots and lots of takes, first to get the timing right and then to get isolated shots of the individuals in the sequence. It is a small miracle that I got through the scene without glassware destruction, and I came very, very close a couple of times, but finally we were done. I set down the tray with a sigh of relief. It was about 12:45, and we had about 7 seconds of the commercial in the can. (It was actually a set of similar commercials for a range of the company’s products; I estimate the total time of all the pieces needed was about two minutes.)

After that, is was much like my first day on the James and the Giant Explosive Device shoot. I had been prominently featured moving away from the action, so I wasn’t going to be much use for a while. Sure enough, that was it for me that day. My only tasks for the rest of the day were keeping warm (not easy), reading, and visiting the food tables from time to time. Had it been warmer, it would have been a good way to spend an afternoon, and a guaranteed disaster for any diet. At 8:15 p.m. I was released. Fourteen hours of action-packed fun!

Because of my specialness a van picked me up the next morning, allowing me to sleep another half hour. Special or not, I spent almost no time at all on the set for the sixteen hours I was there. I was released at 11 p.m. The shoot was running late, and they had desperately wanted to not have shots with extras slip into the next day. (Not desperate enough that they didn’t completely redo the set three times for one shot.) They still had some shots with extras for the next day, but I didn’t have to go back.

It is unlikely I will ever see the final result, but for those of you in Europe (and America too, for all I know), if you see an ad for Sun dishwashing detergent, look for a lab assistant with a scruffy beard going to gray. That’s me!

Don’t Die

The new-new bartender warmly greeted a bunch of her friends an hour ago — two women and one guy, and things seemed casual and friendly. Then the thin girl with the large breasts arrived. His attention shifted to her, and so did mine. Anorexic Boob-Job Girl, I dubbed her. I started composing an episode about her charms, but then I looked closer. Her upper arms are about the size of my wrists, and I have my mother’s wrists. What I started to write as a joke is in fact a horror, and while I admired her I was shoveling dirt on her grave.

She is anorexic boob-job girl. I’m looking at someone committing one of the most horrific slow suicides imaginable, and I haven’t the slightest idea what to do about it. It’s an American impulse, I suppose, thinking that there is a solution, and that I am the guy to apply it. I feel guilty, now, thinking “Dang! She’s hot!” when I first saw her, before I saw what wasn’t there.

I don’t know what to say to anyone reading this who is shooting for weight zero. Don’t? Stop? You’re beautiful now, just as you are, and no number on a scale will ever change that? There is nothing I can say that hasn’t been said before.

Except maybe don’t die. Don’t die. We need you on this side, sensitive and frightened, honest and hurt. In this big brutal world, we need you more than ever.

I need you. I need to believe that you exist. I need to hope that I can meet you someday, by chance, and you’ll never know that I was the guy who wrote this, and I’ll never know that this helped you, but we’ll bump someday, on the A train in New York or the tram in Prague, just by accident, a little embarrassing incident, something minor we’ll chuckle over for the rest of our time, and we will both discover happiness. Chances are it won’t be me you bump, but some other lonely soul. That doesn’t matter, but it won’t happen if you’re dead.

Words, words, words. Useless futile hopeless words. Sinuous vipers that twist themselves to the tune of the piper. In the end, they are nothing, but they are all I have. Words, and when a life is at stake I know just how useless words can be. There is nothing I can say, nothing I can write, that will stop the woman in front of me from killing herself. There’s nothing I can do to stop anyone from starving herself to death, except ask. Please, don’t. For me. I use the smoke as an excuse, but I can’t get away with crying in a crowded bar too often.

Selling Soap – This is How Stupid I Am

Apparently, the director for this commercial is slower than most. On day two of shooting, a van came and picked me up at my house and got me to the set at 7:15. At 3:30 I still had yet to be used. I sat and read near the little space heater in the room where the food was.

Sitting near me was a pretty woman, bundled up and sitting directly in front of the heater, reading a worn, cloth-bound book. It looked like literature. As other people were called onto the set occasionally, she never budged. She wasn’t wearing a lab coat, so I figured she wasn’t in the cast, but she didn’t appear to be part of the crew, either. After a while I figured out that she was the set medic. She didn’t speak much English, and she seemed a little shy when people came to ask for cold medicine or whatnot. Occasionally something amusing would happen nearby and we would exchange a chuckle. I tried to think of some way to broach a conversation with her, when we had so few words in common.

Eventually my name was called and I limped out onto the set. My shoes had given me a blister on my heel the day before. False alarm; I limped back to the waiting room. She looked up from her book and I shrugged and rolled my eyes and she smiled. I returned to my book, wondering what I could say to her. A while later the call came again, I limped back out, false alarm, and back I went. Smiles exchanged, back to the books.

Some of you, by now, may have already caught on. Let’s review the salient points:

  • There was a pretty woman sitting a few feet away from me for hours and hours
  • She reads old books
  • I wanted to talk to her
  • She was bored
  • She was a nurse
  • I was injured
  • It is her job to help injured people

You see it? The subtle opportunity I missed? To not only talk to her, but to get some relief for my heel as it bled into my sock?

Man, I’m stupid. I wonder, now, if I would have thought to ask for help if the nurse had been a toothless old man.

deliction

“For your deliction” might more awkwardly and less precisely be phrased “to be enjoyed by you as a delicacy”, or “for you to find to be delicious”. “For your indulgence” is a common enough phrase, but there are different nuances that leave the substitute inadequate. I’m not indulging you. Deliction is about the simple pleasure of a moment, and has none of the decadence implied by indulgence. I’m not asking for your indulgence, either. If you don’t find this delicious, blow me. “For your delight” is closer, but less tasty.

The closest standing word in Mr. Oxford’s American Dictionary is “delict”, a legal term, a noun, something about breaking laws. Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas (“The Empire”), its author, flunkies, hangers-on, sycophants, functionaries, yes-men, no-men, toadies, and armies of brain-hungry zombies do not condone or encourage any legal misdeeds by using the word “deliction” in the “What’s New” section above.

1

Selling Soap – The Books I Read

I knew I’d have a lot of time on my hands on set, so with bleary eyes I surveyed the small stack of books awaiting my attention. On this first day of shooting More Booze Than Blood by Sean Meagher joined The Art of the Novel, a collection of essays by Milan Kundera, in my backpack.

On the metro I slowly digested some of Kundera’s “Sixty-three Words”. That essay is dedicated to defining some of the words he uses and the particular meaning they have in the context of his work; it was inspired by horrific experiences Kundera has had when The Joke was translated from the original Czech. To quote Kundera directly: “In France, the translator rewrote the novel by ornamenting my style. In England, the publisher cut out all the reflective passages, eliminated the musicological chapters, changed the order of the parts, recomposed the novel.” Subsequent translations were based on one of these two, not the original Czech. It reminded me of my eariler episode in which I mention the copy editor for “Memory of a Thing that Never Was.” That was a very clean manuscript, but only if you accept my rambling style. A good translator has to have the courage to defy the traditions of the language to be stylistically faithful to the original work. To paraphrase Kundera: Critic: “That’s not how we say it in our language!” Kundera: “That’s not how we say it in Czech, either!”

I’ll discuss the substance of Kundera’s essays elsewhere, I think, or just practice dropping them into conversations when I’m playing the ex-pat writer game.

Once on location, dressed, and painted, I settled into “hurry up and wait” mode. I pulled out More Booze than Blood. I really, really liked this book. Meagher writes with balls, giving us a cast of characters broken, flawed, and unlikeable in every way, and makes us like them. We cringe and hope and want to smack them and say “Just stop it!” As the reader you see the waste, the futility, as everything slides towards violence, and they see it too. What unites these people is a sense that life is futile, stupid, insane, but there’s no sense worrying about it, because it’s not going to change no matter what you do. I was dog-tired on the metro home that night, but I knew I wasn’t going to go to bed until I finished the book. I almost missed my metro stop, I was so wrapped up. (Note that this book contains some sex, some violence, and a lot of profanity.)

Having said that, the subject of a copy editor comes up again. This book is self-published, and could really have benefitted from a good edit. Many times I got bumped out of the narrative by a distracting grammatical error. (Lay and lie are pretty much backwards throughout.) It’s a pity, but with a little attention from a friendly editor this book would be deserving of a lot of notice. If you like writing with balls, go out and buy lots of copies of this book so the next one can get the support it needs. If errors like that will prevent you from enjoying the work, buy lots of copies, don’t read them, and hope for a reprint later.

Day two of the shoot I didn’t pack the laptop, so I knew I would need even more reading material. I had no idea how right I was, as the day stretched on and on. I packed two more titles from my birthday plunder, Something Grand by John Flynn and Into the Forest by Jean Hegelund. I finished the Kundera on the van to the location, but there are parts of that I will need to go over again.

Something Grand is not in the style of Chandler, as I previously asserted. It is a series of shorts stories, most revolving around the theme of the hardships of the working poor, the impossibility of getting ahead and the passing of demons from one generation to the next. Many of the stories are very good, a couple of them hauntingly so, but others sag under the weight of too much imagery and metaphor — too much salad and not enough meat. I think there’s a school of thought these days that, much like you can’t overhop a beer, you can’t use too much imagery. There’s something for me to learn in that. There is a time for rich imagery and grand metaphor, but at some point you have to climb down into the muck with the poor SOB’s you’ve forced unwillingly into existence and make them work.

Into the Forest is, as I mentioned in a previous episode (after reading only the first paragraph), one of those books where you read the first paragraph and know you are in good hands. It is a very hopeful book about the end of western civilization, an eloquent back-to-nature piece that brings you to the mystical reconnection of mankind and nature gradually, and along the way touches on all that makes humanity grand and frail. I must confess there were parts that got too sentimental for me, but I’m not really a sentimental guy, you know? There are characters in my own writing who are far more sentimental than I am, but if there weren’t, my stories would be bleak, indeed.

Finally, having exhausted all the words I had at my disposal, I accepted from another extra a series of essays by James Baldwin, and read an interesting piece on his relationship with Norman Mailer. When he talked about his reaction when Mailer announced he was going to run for the mayor of New York, it had a strange echo with something Kundera said to me just that morning — that any public life the writer exposes undermines the work, and doing that is irresponsible to the art. Neither of them quite said it that way, and Baldwin might accuse me of putting words in his mouth, but in any case it is something for a blogger/writer to consider.

Consider, consider, consider… OK, done! On with the blog! Baldwin and Kundera would both consider me a hack anyway, though I prefer “storyteller”. (We’ll have to see if The Fish can change that.)

So, what have you read lately? There has been some of this theme stirring in the comments lately, but now I want to hear what you’ve finished reading lately and what you thought of it. What do you plan to read next and why? Am I being too shameless pandering for comments?

NOTE: If you use the above Amazon link to buy the book I get a kickback. It really was a good story.

Strč tinkerbell prst skrz

I saw this headline on nhl.cz and I find it aesthetically pleasing:

Zopakují Mighty Ducks jízdu zp?ed t?í let?

So, there’s one advantage to giving your team a silly name.

Be right back…

I’ve spent the last couple of days extra-ing for a fairly silly detergent commercial. I just got off a 16-hour day, and now I’m too tired even to have a beer before I go to sleep, let alone write about my adventures. I’ll get a real episode out tomorrow, when I reflect back on my meteoric rise to stardom and the, uh, meteoric plunge through the atmosphere in a fiery blaze of self-destruction that followed.

Oh, and happy Drop Everything and Read Day! I read two books today, then borrowed another. All while on the clock!