Sunday, December 28, 2014

No Moffatry

I finally caught up on this season of Doctor Who--don't you love it when your parents have Comcast On Demand? Here's the thing: I adore Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor, but Steven Moffat continues to have some serious failings a writer. The most troubling thing to me is his inability to write even remotely realistic female characters. (Regarding the recent Christmas Special: god forbid elderly Clara be able to go in the TARDIS--only young, conventionally pretty women deserve to travel space and time! And it's good to know that she never really has a life of her own--only a love life. It only matters what men she's with, or not with.) But Moffat also has a big problem with plot holes. He always tries to create these overarching, season-long arcs that don't pay off when they "resolve" in the end because he hasn't given us enough information for them to resolve in a satisfying way. I think there are two possibilities for why he does this: 1) He has the whole situation figured out in his head, but just assumes that we'll all think the same way he does, so he fails to put the things we need to know into the script, or 2) He doesn't even have all the rules figured out--he's more concerned with the ending flourish, and doesn't care about doing the necessary work to earn that flourish.

Sometimes this happens in a single episode as well; the recent Christmas Special was absurd, for instance. Basically it involved these aliens that attacked by putting you into multiple, nesting dream states so that you wouldn't notice while they slowly ate your brain. But the "logic" that the Doctor uses to determine whether they're in a dream state doesn't hold up, especially towards the end of the episode. It was sort of a cheap Inception rip-off featuring aliens and Santa Claus--although, to be honest, I had similar problems with Inception. The more I watched it and thought about it, the less it made sense.

All this led me to create a new writing mantra last night: DON'T BE A MOFFAT.

I've been working on my novel as much as I can over break--I recently broke the 50,000-word mark!--but lately I've been bothered by a few things (this is going to be hard to explain without summarizing my whole story, so I apologize for the vagueness):
  • My main character can enter a different world and control powerful creatures/forces, but so far it is unclear how he controls them. He's not a wizard like Harry Potter, so there's no spellcasting involved. In my head it's more of a psychological process, but that's just the trouble--right now it's only in my head. I need to find a concrete way to explain it on the page, especially considering that he's being trained to do this.
  • I thought I had all the rules of this different world figured out, but as I've been writing more, I've come up against some situations where I don't know why the creatures are doing what they're doing, and that's a serious problem. If I don't fully understand the thing I've created, nobody else will, either.
My novel is still in the rough draft stage, and I've also never written a novel before, obviously, so I can't be too hard on myself. But I feel as though Steven Moffat would simply leave these issues unanswered, just to get to the big bang flashy finish as quickly as possible. He wouldn't care that it doesn't make sense. I care very much. I want my story to be airtight. So last night I made a new list of rules for my world; I'd already made one early on, but I had to add to it, both in length and in detail. Today I think I'm going to re-write a few small sections throughout to make sure it's clear how my character is controlling the creatures. I think it's dangerous to do too much editing when I still don't have a completely finished draft, but at the same time, I think this will make it easier to write the rest of the scenes where's he's controlling them. I want there to be consistency.

Leta once cross-stitched me a small sign that says "Ass to Chair," so that I would always remember to sit down and write. I have it on my desk. Maybe someday she can make me one that says "Don't Be a Moffat" to go along with it. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Baby It's Not Particularly Cold Outside

I don't know--maybe it is this morning. But I have serious doubts about whether I'll receive a white Christmas this year. It's stayed in the balmy 40's the whole time I've been here. It kind of sleeted the other night. Almost snow. Not quite.

It's alright, though. I'm happy to be in Chicagoland. The past weekend was nuts, completely nonstop. Thursday was ABIS Christmas party, Friday was Gena's Christmas party (charades! celebrity! finally meeting her boyfriend!), Saturday was hanging out with Mickey at Pick Me Up and Chicago Comics and Book Cellar and her apartment (RuPaul's Drag Race mini-marathon! cats!). Sunday I finally came home, but then I had to go to the rockin' Christmas party at my grandmother's retirement home.

Things have been calmer this week, thank goodness. I've been writing a lot, which is wonderful. I've can't seem to adjust to the central time zone, unfortunately. I keep waking up way too late. Maybe I just need the sleep. I forced myself to get up early-ish today.

Gee, my life is exciting! I'll bet you're thrilled to be reading this blog entry. Let me make it up to you with puppies:


And on that note, I leave you. A very Merry Christmas Eve to you and yours!

Monday, December 15, 2014

I'll Be Home for Christmas. Literally.

Today I turned in my students' final grades to the department, so you know what that means: WINTER BREAK!

I've got big plans, my friends--the most drastic of which is that I'm flying to Chicago tomorrow for a three-week visit. I am so very excited to see all my lovely Chicago humans that I don't even care about the cold. I also plan on doing a great deal of reading, a great deal of writing, and a great deal of French speaking. (All those study abroad deadlines are coming up quick.) Am I overly ambitious? Perhaps. But I'm going to do my best.

I don't think I can fully be in the holiday spirit until I return to the Midwest, but sunny Vegas has been doing its best. On Friday night Dan/Brittany/Denise/Austin hosted a Christmas party featuring a white elephant gift exchange, in which I won a white elephant. Saturday night I organized karaoke at Champagne's because I'm a goddamn rockstar and everyone needs to know it. It sort of turned into crazyoke, though; the regular host was out, and the woman filling in was possibly on drugs? She kept playing the wrong songs, or playing the same person's song twice in a row. It was bizarre.

Last night Olivia and Austin and I went to Sam's Town, a wonderfully tacky Vegas institution, to see White Christmas in theaters. Austin had never seen it before, which makes me sad; how can someone go so many Christmases with no White Christmas? It's not Christmas without Bing! From there we headed to the tiny bar tucked into the hotel's interior courtyard to see its infamous laser lights show--the holiday edition, of course. I have no words to explain how beautifully bad this show was, what with its shabby animatronic woodland creatures in Santa hats and its pale imitation of the Bellagio fountains choreography and its fake snow and its lasers that essentially made rebuses of the song lyrics. It was truly one of the best/worst things I've ever seen. I'd highly recommend it.

I decided to crash at Olivia's because Sam's Town pours a pretty big glass of wine. But then at Olivia's there was more wine. My head and tummy were not so happy today, which made it all the better when the landlord sent someone to repair the roof, and when I started my period. Hangover hell. Nobody's fault but my own.

And on that cautionary note, I have to pack. I'll see you tomorrow, Windy City!

***

EDIT: This site was recently brought to my attention, and now I would like Santa to bring me all of these feminist clothing items for Christmas. Santa's a feminist, right?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tales from a Broken Brain

I had a nightmare last night for the first time in many years. I woke up just as I was ready to scream. I could feel it caught in my throat.

In my dream-family, I have a much younger brother (probably only four or five), a somewhat younger sister, a Jackie-O-esque mother, and a sturdy father. We live in a pale brown-gray brick house surrounded by forest. It is late fall, so all the leaves dead and scattered on the ground. The dream opens like a movie--I am observing only, not yet part of the action. My little brother is playing in the leaves on a neighbor's property and discovers buried bones. The neighbors find him--a slightly older couple, a gray-haired woman and a man with the only real-world-recognizable face in the dream, that of the actor who plays Lord Grantham on Downton Abbey. (I just finished the most recent season the other day.) They put my brother in their car, along with the skeleton, and bring him back to our home. They let him out, and they re-bury the skeleton near our porch. Presumably they don't believe any trouble will come to them, since my brother is too young to understand.

Later, when I have joined the plot, things are going wrong in the house. The walls begin to warp and shift, the views outside the windows change. It starts to affect my mother and sister. They become increasingly distracted until they cease to speak entirely. Slowly their eyes become darker, black bleeding out over the irises and into the whites. One day my father notices something in the leaves by the porch. I help him dig. We discover the skeleton, and my father leaves to get help. When I come inside, I notice my mother and sister staring at me with their nothing-eyes. I know that I need to leave. I run out onto the porch, only to see the neighbor couple slamming shut the doors of their car. They see me. I am trapped.

That's when I woke up. Weirdly, I have no idea what happened to the little brother.

***

I am sitting in my bed, writing this, and my left arm hurts. It hurts especially in the shoulder, a deep ache all around my rotator cuff, but also up into my neck and down into the fatty part above the elbow. I am afraid I'm going to die.

I'm not totally convinced of my doom. There is a solid part of my brain that is telling me over and over again that nothing is wrong. It keeps telling me the real reason why my arm hurts. I went climbing with Austin on Saturday, and I climbed several difficult routes in a row. My arms felt like jell-o by the end. I must have strained something.

Besides, my left arm has hurt to some extent almost constantly since about 2008. I believe there are many reasons for this, the first and most obvious being that it's simply the weaker of the two. The physical therapist I once saw for this pain informed me that I have hyper-mobile joints, like gymnasts--but unlike gymnasts, I don't have the muscle strength to hold those joints in place, so it's easy for me to injure myself. (Once I also saw a rheumatologist for this pain, and she told me that sometimes you just have to "reset" the muscles. With little warning, she jabbed a syringe full of some mild anesthetic into my shoulder.) I suspect my many anxieties (as previously discussed in this post) have a great deal to do with the pain; I carry loads of tension in my shoulders and back. I also often wonder if my anxieties leads me to feel psychosomatic pain in my shoulder--my brain might be telling me there's pain when there isn't.

Despite the efforts of the rational portion of my brain, the anxiety-ridden portion will not be quiet. This lunatic part of my brain informs me that I must have a blood clot, that a heart attack must be on the horizon.

The really crazy part is that I popped into the doctor's office last week for an unrelated issue, and they took my blood pressure, gave me a quick check-up. If there were a problem, surely it would have come up. But apparently medical expertise is not good enough for anxiety brain.

***

These are some other nightmares I've had:

When I was very small, I was scared of The Addams Family. Now I think it's hilarious, but as a child I failed to see the humor. I once had a dream that I was inside their dark, decrepit mansion. I was sitting on Morticia's lap, and she was brushing my hair. But her comb was made of sharp spikes, and my head was bleeding, dark red dripping down blonde locks.

In another dream, I was in the center of a large, old-fashioned gymnasium. My mother and sister sat on a set of metal bleachers directly ahead of me. At either side of the gymnasium was a set of tall double-doors, presumably heavy. Suddenly, both doors opened at once, and two gigantic monsters moved into the room. I can't remember exactly what they looked like. I do remember that they got closer, and closer, and I couldn't move, and right before they closed in on me entirely, I saw my mother and my sister, laughing.

***

This is going to seem like a non-sequitur, but stay with me: when I was little, my mother would almost never let us eat fried chicken. It was a rare treat, for birthdays or special occasions only. As a child I was upset by this, but now I can hardly ever bring myself to eat fried chicken. I feel horribly guilty when I do, and it makes me feel sick. Don't you hate it when the stuff your parents did actually worked?

Anyway, today was our last Dungeons & Dragons session for the semester, so we played for a whopping seven hours straight. J.D. brought fried chicken to share, and I had two pieces, two tiny legs. I also had some potato chips, and some beer, though not nearly as much beer as everyone else. Not an ideal diet, obviously, but also not my everyday diet, and one that's relatively common for a celebration.

When I got home, I told myself I was going to catch up on work, but instead I fell into bed and read articles on the internet that made me angry--about the recent rape-apology episode of The Newsroom, about Rolling Stone's serious mishandling of the UVA rape story, which will probably set rape-survivor-advocacy back years, not to mention journalism exposing rape on college campuses. Then, shortly after midnight, I got up and gogo danced five songs.

Why did I gogo dance five songs, you ask? Well, because I didn't work out today, and my arm hurts, and the only way to stay healthy and not have heart attacks is to eat well and exercise, and I didn't exercise today, and I didn't eat well, and my arm hurts, so if I exercise now maybe the universe will forgive me and let me go on.

Isn't that absurd?

I'm not naive enough to think that's how the human body works, but I often find myself bargaining with the universe for my life that way. In fact, my anxiety is a large motivation for my working out at all. I don't particularly enjoy exercising; I only like gogo dancing because it makes me feel sexy, and I only like rock climbing because it gives me some puzzles to solve. But I don't like exercising for exercising's sake. If I could stay healthy by sitting around and reading all day and eating whatever I wanted, I most certainly would. I am concerned, though, that my anxiety regarding cardiovascular disorders is becoming too much of a factor in the decisions I make regarding a healthy lifestyle. Yeah, pizza isn't good for you, but I shouldn't freak out when I have a slice or two. If I miss a day of working out, I shouldn't become convinced that I have a blood clot. Not that this happens every time, but it happens a lot, and I know it isn't right. There's a difference between wanting to be healthy and being scared of dying, and I think my mental scales have tipped too much towards the latter.

***

The other day I received a personal phone call from the aforementioned asshole-misogynist crime procedural creator, who, despite being an asshole-misogynist, is kind to take the time out of his busy schedule to read our work. The story I submitted to him was about anxiety--a fictionalized version of something that really happened to me back in Chicago. We also had to submit a one-page bio to shed some light on our stories, and in mine I mentioned that I had trichotillomania.

He didn't like my story. He loved that I have trichotillomania.

He told me to write a different story, one that he proceeded to narrate in its entirety to me over the phone, somehow without grasping the concept that it's his story, since he narrated it, and that what he wants me to write is his story. His story about a 20-something female graduate student in Las Vegas, who has trichotillomania, and who is constantly dating without success because she can never truly open up to these men because she fears they will reject her once they know about her horrible, ugly, freakish condition.

It was a shocking reminder that mental health issues are so frequently misunderstood, and that some people have so little sympathy for those who suffer with them. Honestly, I haven't considered trichotillomania a detriment to my social life in years. In my experience, most people don't notice (I'm well-practiced in the arts of eyebrow pencil and eyeliner), or if they do, they say nothing. On the rare occasion someone does say something, I explain why, and then that person likes me anyway and life goes on as normal. I suppose it helps that I tend to make friends who also have anxiety/depression problems. It's not that we seek each other out; I think we're just naturally drawn together. Similar temperaments, all that. I'm glad it happens that way. I have no interest in hanging out with the obtuse, asshole-misogynist crime procedural creators of the world.

I have been bad about pulling lately, though, so I've been wearing gloves to bed again.

***

That's all I can write for now. That's all I should write for now. Sleep beckons, even with an aching shoulder and all the silly terror that goes along with it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Brief Recap

I've been putting off blogging because I've been so busy lately, and now look what I've done. It's December. I've been terrible about blogging this whole semester, actually, and I apologize for that. It's unusual for me, and it's not as though I've had nothing to tell you. Don't worry, though; I've set a weekly reminder on my to-do list app, so now I'll definitely get to it, lest it kill my virtual pet cat.

I'm not even going to try to recap everything, but here are a few highlights:

Jennifer Pashley came for a craft talk, which was wonderful. She discussed some of the business-related aspects of writing, which is unusual, and also helpful. She's funny, and her stories are sharp and weird. I would recommend them if you're looking for some holiday reading.

Lulu and I hosted Friendsgiving. Lulu loves to cook. Ohmygoodness was the food delicious. Thyme-and-lemon-seasoned turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, brussel sprout-sourdough stuffing, and a pecan pie. Denise brought a pumpkin pie, and Brittany brought an apple pie. That means we had three homemade pies. Yum. Joe brought a mysterious bag that we were not allowed to open until after dessert. The bag contained Twister. It's a good thing we're all really, really comfortable with each other. Maegan brought Cards Against Humanity. It's a good thing we're all really, really comfortable with each other.

I kicked ass at Dungeons & Dragons yesterday. 

I registered for classes next semester. I'm taking Dr. Campbell's Chaos Theory Literature class on Monday nights, but other than that, it's all independent study. I'm going to be working on my Critical Essay requirement with Dr. Campbell as well; the plan is to write about children's literature. You know what that means? I've finally found an excuse to read Harry Potter for school! (She laughed an evil laugh.) I'm also doing my first set of thesis hours with Maile. That means it's probably going to be my novel for the thesis, which is exciting and also scary. I've been writing more, though. Well over 40,000 words now. I'm hoping to go crazy over winter break and finish a rough draft by March at the very latest. But we'll see. 

At any rate, since I'll have only one physical class, I'll theoretically have more time to blog as well. I'll still have to teach, of course, but what can you do? 

Just over two weeks before I head home to Chicago for Christmas! I can't wait. But first: last imitation for Doug's class, Shakespeare final essay, Shakespeare final exam, grade 50 papers, grade 50 final exams, calculate & turn in final grades. Ugh. Wish me luck.