Oh! Look! There flies a pig!
Hey! Check it out! There goes Satan, skating to work!
S W A S H B U C K L E R
on the West Coast
I learned from Mark today that the California state flag is the only one in the union to have an extinct animal on it. The last California Golden Bear was shot and killed in 1922 in Tulare County, when all the grizzly bears in California were being hunted and killed. The California Golden Bear was proclaimed the state mascot in 1953. It was originally called ursus horribilus, and is now referred to as the ursus californicus, now that there aren't any more to scare the passers-by. Horrible, isn't it?
My first culinary experience this trip was a wonderful one at Mijares, as aerolyndt insisted that I should be treated to good Mexican food, as that is a dying breed in the Tri-State area. All of the good sources around home have unfortunately dried up, and so I was most pleased to find that not only was Mijares everything I was hoping for, it surpassed my expectations.
First of all, the food is great. On Thursday I availed myself of a special Chile Relleno dish, and tonight I had the Chile Colorado. I can easily and without fear of contradiction say that this place is a great find. In addition to the food being quite reasonably priced for what you get, there is also the unavoidable fact that they make the best margaritas I have had yet. I don't know exactly why these taste so much better than all of the others that I've drank, but I should warn the casual reader that margaritas are a personal favorite, so this is not an honorific I would bestow lightly.
My generous hosts also introduced me to Penny Lane, which is a video rental/sale store. I impressed the staff (and Aerolyndt) by immediately pegging the new DVD as 2001: A Space Odyssey before an image appeared on the screen (what other film opens with Gyorgy Ligeti's "Atmospheres" as an overture?) and with my knowledge (there was also a pretty decent joke comparing the "Dawn of Man" sequence with the Republican National Convention... "The man-apes or the tapirs?" I asked, to some amusement). I picked reproductions of these while I was there:
The Spanish Yojimbo poster!
The Rear Window one-sheet!
I had quite a good time while I was there.
I love Goslings because... well, it's Goslings.
After returning home, I introduced my hosts to the Jenga mp3 CD, and they introduced me to "Zar," a game similar to Uno, but with some interesting variations. Unlike Uno, command cards can be played at any time (except when you are being commanded to do something otherwise), and the scoring is quite different. I nevertheless managed to amass quite a few points both of the games that we played. An embarrassing amount, actually, and the fact that I am revealing this to you is probably related to how much I have drank this night.
They also introduced me to "Give Me the Brain," which is another card game with the unlikely premise that you are a zombie working at a fast-food restaurant with other zombies and that you have but one brain to share amongst all of you (okay, the part with the one brain for all the fast-food workers is pretty accurate). This leads to having some absolutely hilarious cards, although the rules of the game are way too complex to comprehend after several margaritas and a few glasses of rum and Coke.
Today, I gave waystone a hand in a fanfic story she was writing... not that I got the chance to see it, mind you, but the discussion we had was quite interesting.
Writing is a difficult task because there really are no rules. Anybody who tells you any different is lying to you. Because what I wrote with suitboyskin is a screenplay, several aspects of prose writing were neatly sidestepped, mainly how to describe the internal emotional state of characters without getting into their heads. As I pointed out to Waystone, a film is a very different animal from a novel, novella, short story or even a poem because the filmmaker has resources an author doesn't necessarily have, such as actors, image composition, lighting, montage (editing) and music.
Writing prose is difficult, especially given that Waystone chose, for reasons best known to herself, to endure the self-inflicted torture of a completely third-person narrative. On one hand, one can look at such a move and consider it a challenge, on the other one can look at the limitations of such a narrative form.
I offered the following advice to her, and I recommend it to anybody who finds that they have written themselves into some sort of corner:
"Okay, the California sun must have baked the Swashbuckler's mind, because that's just plain retarded."
Actually, try it out. The screenplay that I wrote with Suit got kicked into high gear one night when I sketched out the structure of the thing on a bunch of styrofoam plates. A diagram of what needs to happen in a story can be quite illuminating, often throwing the project into new context even for an author who has been wrestling with the material for months.
Visualizing character motivations and chronology is something I often do if I am stuck in a corner. Since I do believe that all story arcs must stem organically from characters and situations they find themselves in, it is imperative that be the primary emphasis.
Also, not being one writing serial fan fiction, I don't have increments to deal with, so I can leave a particular scene that's giving me trouble and come back to it later... Suit can attest to the fact that this works quite well, because it means that you can come back to that material fresher. In Waystone's case, I recommended that, should she attempt this again, she may wish to write the story first, and post it in the requisite sections.
If this sounds like it was an involved discussion, well, it was. I just thought that it was an interesting topic, and an arena in which I was able to help another person.
Now, if only she'd get over her self-belittling and let some of us who actually know her read the stuff, so she can get some decent feedback instead of stabbing in the dark...