April 2023!

April 7, 2023

(Reminder that this is mirrored on my Patreon page.)

So, how’s the weather where you’re at? Spring? Winter? Both at once? Yeah…

News in my world: I just spent three weeks in New Zealand. This was a bucket-list trip, one I was supposed to take in 2020 but didn’t, because 2020 was the year of NO. I finally decided to do it now, because if I kept waiting for the right time it would never happen. I ran myself ragged like I usually do when I travel and had a great time. I got to ride a horse in the area where bits of Lord of the Rings were filmed, go kayaking, and see mountains that are like the Alps and Rockies all smooshed together. And so many new birds! A thing I learned: Kiwi are part of the same family of birds as emu, ostriches, cassowary—you know, all flightless birds that can kill you with their feet. Turns out Kiwi can too – if you’re really small. Here’s a video of one beating the crap out of a possum. Who knew??? Now I want a monster movie full of giant kiwi. 

(It makes me wonder mightily about another flightless New Zealand bird, the Moa, right? Extinct, alas. But probably good in a fight.)  

This month’s lesson: No formal lesson. Instead, let’s have a check-in session, because that’s what I’ve been doing in my own brain. What are you working on? What successes are you celebrating? What problems are you grappling with? Want to talk about it? Venting can help! I’ve got some venting of my own, so come join me!

Promotion: I’m going to have a lot in a bit. I’m planning a Kickstarter campaign to publish my next short story collection, and my first graphic novel is coming out this summer. Stay tuned, you bet your ass I’ll be posting about them.

Movies on airplanes: Gosh, in-flight entertainment has gotten fancy! Hundreds of movies at the touch of a button! I rewatched the new Dune film, because I just wanted something big and pretty that would put me to sleep. I had a slightly better reaction to it than I did the first time, when I was rather underwhelmed.

On the way back I watched The Fablemans, Spielberg’s latest, reportedly semi-autobiographical film about a kid growing up in the 50’s and 60’s who wants to make movies. Y’all, this wrecked me, which wasn’t comfortable because I was in the middle seat on a thirteen-hour trans-Pacific flight, openly crying while trying not to but oh well. I have a bunch of quibbles with the film:  it’s too long, a lot of the characterizations of Sam’s family are broadly painted at best and caricatures at worst (his sisters are almost literally props). But where the film really shines are the scenes where Sam slowly learns that he can use movies to manipulate reality, to control people’s emotions, to affect their perceptions. This film has a really powerful thread about art and meaning that got to me.

Digging into that a bit: A couple of people in Sam’s life tell him, “You’re special because you’re an artist.” And that’s an easy platitude, right? Really, though, we (yeah, I’m talking about me here) aren’t any more or less special than anyone else. On the other hand, artists pretty much have to believe they’re special if they want to get their work out there. We have to believe that what we’re saying and making is worth hearing and seeing. It’s a big leap, believing that.

And…we artists have figured out how to manipulate reality. We can control peoples’ emotions. I don’t know if it makes us special but it makes us different, and it isolates us. A big part of the film is Sam realizing that this power is both positive and negative, and what is he going to do with that?

Then there’s the very last scene in which Sam meets legendary director John Ford, played by David Lynch, and holy shit that’s where I just lost it, right there on the plane. Because that scene doesn’t go the way I thought it would, it’s completely surreal and wonderful and I don’t want to say anything else about it lest I spoil it. (I will tell you the lesson I took from the scene: Don’t overthink it, kid. Seriously.)

For all its faults The Fablemans has landed on my list of top-five Spielberg films. I’ll have to watch it again, to see for sure. (What are the others? In order: Empire of the Sun, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I don’t know what 4 is, it keeps changing, but it’s probably tied with The Fablemans.)

Books: Over the last year and a half I’ve been reading a lot of what might be classified as self-help books, books on creativity, and similar. I have a lot of thoughts about this category that I haven’t quite organized, mostly having to do with how on the whole these seem to be directed at upper-middle class, white-collar, Americans. Makes sense, it’s a category for people with time and money to spend on self help, right? Anyway. The one book so far that I’ve been telling everyone about, the one that has explained the most to me, is Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It’s not your imagination, group projects really do suck, and yet we keep getting assigned them anyway.

So here we are, in April. Let’s do the things!


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