Theater Masks

Theater Masks

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

10 Thoughts and Memories for 2010

10)This was the year Lost ended. It was the best TV show I've ever seen, and I think it'll be a long time before anything tops it. I've written a lot about Lost already, and when I (eventually) get the DVDs or Blu-Rays and rewatch, I'm sure I'll have more to say.

9) This was the year I saw less movies in the theaters than I think I have in a LONG time. It's a combination of inflated prices and, frankly, lower quality films coming out. My favorites? Inception, Toy Story 3, and Megamind. I'm all about the realism, yo.

8) This was the year Caitie and I increased three our participation in three hobbies: Disney, reading, and gaming. We became columnists on We bought each other more Disney "furnishings" for our house. Caitie read over 100 books this year. I read -- not that many, but I think more than I have in the past. I plan to keep track better next year. We have become almost fanatical gamers. We go to game club once a week. We play games with friends on weekend. We play Wii more, and we're seriously considering getting a PS3.

7) This was the year my unit changed at work. Well, my unit stayed the same, but three people on the team were changed. It's made for an interesting new dynamic. I have to say, overall, I'm a bit less stressed about this aspect of my job than I have been the last couple of years.

6) This was the first year of WriteonCon during the summer. The conference was absolutely fantastic, teaching me so much about writing and the industry. It didn't get me any agent contacts, but it did give me a new beta reader and cyber-penpal (hi Autumn). It reinvigorated me with my writing, and spurred me to not only finish my Tracey book, rewrite Goodson, but get started on a mystery novel as well (which, sadly, is kind of stalling around 120 pages in at this point). I have two agents looking at Before White now. Here's hoping by this time next year there will have been more progress made!

5)This was the year we went to Sondheim's 80th Birthday Gala, and the year Bucks County Playhouse may have closed its doors permanently. Maybe you saw the concert on PBS a couple of months ago. It was an incredible night - one of the most memorable I've spent in the theater. Sondheim is my writing hero, and it's no exaggeration to say I think he is the smartest, most clever composer/lyricist of all time. On the flip side, the news that the owner of the Bucks County Playhouse was forced to retire and close the theater is very sad for me. I spent 25+ years seeing shows there. I've seen more theater there than I would have been able to see otherwise, and while production values may have varied, I'm grateful for the continuing love of theater the playhouse has fostered in me.

4) This was the year we went to the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington DC. I'm a long-time lover of The Daily Show. I've recently become more aware of politics, more angered by things that are happening, and more in agreement with Jon Stewart's beliefs that what's hurting us more than anything else are poor reporting and immoral media (I was a journalism minor) and politicians who are more self-serving than in it for the people they are supposed to be representing. The rally was an amazing confirmation of these values, not to mention just an incredible experience to be amongst THAT many people at once!

3) This was the year my niece, Lily Ella, was born. I haven't have a chance to meet her yet, as we were away for the holidays and then I had a cold, but I can't wait. Seems crazy to me that my little sister is a Mom. I'm very happy for her, and look forward to showering Lily with Disney stuff and books (though not literally, because, you know, that would hurt).

2) This was the year my Nana died. I admit I didn't call her as much as I probably should have. I loved when she came to visit for the summers - and in the later years when she stayed with my Mom. She was a funny, caring, generous, and loving woman - she cared about her family above and beyond everything else. She always wanted what was best for her children and grandchildren, and it was so clear that she reveled in her great-grandchildren (my cousin's kids). My sister named Lily after her, and I think that would have touched her so much. I found a ceramic figure of a baseball player she designed for me when I was a little boy. I was never into sports at all, but I always liked that figurine. When Nana died, we put the figure in a prominent place in our living room, as a constant reminder of Nana and what she meant to our family.

1) This was the year I solidified my relationship with Caitie. I'm not going into details, but we had a pretty rough patch earlier this year. The good news, and what I want to focus on is that we came out the back side of those troubles stronger and more in love than we ever were before. She is my partner and my best friend and I can't imagine my life without her. We've learned how to rely on each other, to trust each other, and to lean on each others' strengths. I look forward to a great new year with Caitie, which will be just one of many, many more to come.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Black Swan

If you haven't seen the movie, be warned, here there be spoilers.

I'll get this out of the way right from the start. Caitie hated the movie. She doesn't like horror movies, and we didn't know it would be scary. Personally, I found it a bit graphic in parts, but not really scary.

What I did find, though, was an incredible central performance by Natalie Portman about the drive for perfection in art. What separated the film from others are a couple of things. One, the sheer visceralness (visceralosity? visceralization? you know what I mean) of the camera work. The hand held style usually bugs me, but it felt right for this movie. We spend the entire film inside Nina's head. An omnipresent cameraman or true third person view would not work. Second, Nina herself isn't sure what's real, and director Darren Aronofsky successfully puts us, the viewer, into her scissor scarred ballet shoes by keeping us on the edge of fantasy. I never once thought she was literally transforming, or that any of her delusions were real, but they served their purpose on a sheerly metaphoric level.

I'm not a perfectionist in my art. I know writing is sloppy, I know I make mistakes both grammatically and structurally. I don't have that drive for complete perfection - nor do I think a writer CAN - that a ballet dancer has, no, needs. This movie would not work for a writer, for if a writer were to strive for what the ballerina requires, nothing would ever get produced. In fact, the end result of the movie is a way of approaching achievement of that perfection.

So no, I don't relate to Nina in that sense -- but I understand her. I understand her drive. I understand the push from and twisted relationship with her mother. I understand (and I suppose in a way do relate) to her drive to experience new things, to see how far one can push without breaking. There's a duality expressed throughout the movie -- most clearly visualized by the stunning use of black and white, especially in the costumes -- that shows us Nina's problem. She can be the perfect ballerina, or she can LIVE. The teacher/choreographer Thomas says repeatedly in the film that she needs to let go.

Perhaps that's the message - pushing too hard, driving toward a goal with blinders on ISN'T optimal. We SHOULD let go, we should strive to be our best while living our life - most importantly, as so many other artists have shown before - we should strive for one thing that matters intrinsically to any dancer -- balance.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Things just feel off, but...

I have two full manuscripts out.

My sister's going to give birth within the next day or two.

For some reason the last couple of nights I've been having really funky dreams that I can't really remember in the morning, I wake up feeling -- off.

We haven't been to the gym in a couple of weeks because we seem to be doing something every day.

I'm turning 33 next week.

The sliding back door in my house has been a pain in the neck to close lately and I can't figure out why.

I've been trying to get a contractor to fix the thing that needs to be fixed on my roof (yeah, that's how specific I can get) for months and he never calls back.

My computer has been doing funky things lately like sending dancing purple lines across the screen or not turning on properly.

I've gotten skunked out of more poker hands online in the last week than I thought possible - losing sure thing wins when that one wrong card falls on the river.

I'm semi-stuck on my latest book - I think I'll get somewhere and then come to a screeching grinding halt again.

The lock on my classroom door is broken, and no one seems particularly concerned, though it means when we have a lockdown I can't follow procedure.

I got a rubber chicken as a secret Santa gift, though granted, it makes a really cool noise.

I practically threw out my shoulder playing Boom Blox this weekend.

On the plus side:
I have two agents looking at my full.

My sister is about to give birth.

I don't remember the funkiness of the dreams really.

I actually HAVE a gym membership which we can (more or less) afford

I'm made it to 33 and it's got to be better than 32.

I'm pretty sure I managed to get the door closed after all.

When I do get in touch with the contractor finally it shouldn't be terribly expensive.

My computer is (more or less) working, at least.

I don't think I'm playing bad poker, just hitting incredibly bad luck.

I've written three full books with very little trouble, hitting snags on book four is nothing to complain about, and I've got ideas churning for three more books already.

Who care about a lock?

OK, the rubber chicken is kinda cool.

Boom Blox is awesome and I can't wait to hurt my shoulder again...OK, maybe not so much on the hurt...

ETA: I'm an uncle! My sister gave birth this morning at 9:45 to Lily Ella, 7 lbs. 5 oz. Yay - so happy for her!!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My student reads my book

I know it means very little in the agenting world, but I've finally allowed one of my students to read my book. For the past two years I've been very hesitant to do this, but I have a student who is, to put it mildly, a voracious reader. She would be my perfect, ideal audience so I thought I'd give it to her to get some feedback. Since I haven't printed it, she's been reading it during study halls on my computer. Every day she comes in, excited to get reading. She asks me some questions, mostly anticipatory ones trying to get me to reveal what's coming next. She seems enthusiastic about it, and, importantly, told me that it's unlike anything she's ever read before. Her interest and excitement certainly seem genuine - she's the type of kid who, if she wasn't interested, probably wouldn't be making the effort every day to read.

I have to admit, this has given me hope. I've been scared to let a kid read the book since that's who I'm gearing towards.

Now, when I get published (no more ifs - I'm going with WHEN), do I have to thank her? :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I was going to post something else

I was going to post something a little more political - wrote it all up and then deleted it (some people may have gotten it in a feed, I guess). Caitie convinced me to take it down.

One point I do want to keep up here, though.

DADT repeal was voted down today by the Senate. The majority of people wanted it, the majority of Senators wanted it, and it still got voted down.

It's a sad sad day for the American people.