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November 1st, 2005

Stupid Insomnia -.-

I was sleeping along, minding my own business, when I had a very elaborate dream about having a week-long internship at a place that varied between being the Smithsonian (museum) and being the National Zoo (which technically is also part of the Smithsonian), but which was the whole time in this massive, 10-story gnarled old gothic castley mansion of a building, the size of a city block.

level_head was the manager, curator, and generally Dumbledore-esque operator of the thing (and really, who else would be?), and aside from a walk-on by an old Borders coworker by the name of Jim (who was a kind of doorman-type), the only other person I remember knowing in the dream was kylet, who had a brief cameo as himself, looking for directions to the snack shop, or possibly for somebody he was supposed to meet, my memory's getting hazy from having been awake too long. His appearance was cut short by the arrival of a tiny, vaguely mouse-sized critter with a fox's body but a mousey snout, supposedly a bit of D.C. wildlife that was lurking in the window ... at which Vince said, "Eee! Kyoote!" and wandered off.

Then I examined a pamphlet (a full-color, immersive, animated pamphlet, but a pamphlet nonetheless) about what would happen if the place caught on fire and how to figure out what was going on. In the pamphlet, all the various battlements and strangely-placed porches and long twisty exterior stairways were gushing water (presumably from the sprinklers), and level_head said, "Can you tell me what's unusual here?"

"Besides the water gushing out?" I said.

"The water gushing out is not unusual, assuming the fire alarm has gone off. But what's unusual is this, see?" In reference to which, he indicated one small chute in the corner of the image that was not gushing water, merely trickling. "This entrance has been tampered with. That means the fire was set. When you've been here a long time, and you know the place well, you'd notice things like that."

"He's right you know," said a random somebody whose identity I've lost track of. I think my brain identified her as lady_anne, since she was associated with level_head, but she was borrowing somebody else's body for the purpose.

"Well, maybe," I said to her. "But I'm not as intelligent as level_head, either. It wouldn't come easily to me, although I suppose it might be the voice of experience." At this point, the dream seems to have segued into me getting into my car and asking Professor McGonagall for directions out of the city. I don't remember exactly what they were, but I do remember they involved actual D.C. streets.

At this point, I woke up -- *PING!* Eyes open, wide awake, stomach acidic, heartrate all jumpy, all sorts of old regrets, anxieties, and issues jumping out from behind my brain and saying "Boo." It was like my body was having an anxiety/depression attack, and my mind just sort of sighed and said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, heard it all before, can we please let go of this?"

So I came downstairs, got some milk, and started writing this, with some chat-based company in the form of graveyardgreg and jamesbarrett. Fortunately, this seems to have soothed my ruffled psyche, and I'm starting to get sleepy again. So I'll just finish off the milk and head back up to bed.

G'nite, everybody. Again.

-The Gneech

Random Linkage

I Hate England - Anger has made the English an ugly race. But then this anger is also the source of England’s most admirable achievement — their heroic self-control. It’s the daily struggle of not giving in to their natural inclination to run amok with a cricket bat, to spit and bite in a crowded tearoom, that I admire most in the English. It’s not what they are, but their ability to suppress what they are, that’s great about the English. ... It’s their anger that has made them arguably, over the long run, the most consistently successful of all the old European nations, certainly the most inventive and adventurous and energetic. Controlled anger is the great impetus to achievement. You have to do something with it. Anger simply won’t let you be comfortable in your own skin. ... The English aren’t people who strive for greatness, they’re driven to it by a flaming irritation. It was anger that built the Industrial Age, which forged expeditions of discovery. It was the need for self-control that found an outlet in cataloguing, litigating and ordering the natural world. It was the blind fury with imprecise and stubborn inanimate objects that created generations of engineers and inventors. The anger at sin and unfairness that forged their particular earth-bound, pedantic spirituality and their puce-faced, finger-jabbing, spittle-flecked politics. ... The English have, by the skin of their teeth and the stiffness of their lip, managed to turn what might have been a deforming fault into their defining virtue, but it still doesn’t make them loveable.

The Myth of Mythology -- In 1922, T. S. Eliot depicted the spiritual disintegration of Western culture in The Waste Land. In the legend of the Holy Grail, inhabitants of the wasteland live inauthentic lives, blindly following social norms without the conviction that comes of deeper understanding. ... How could people put down creative roots in the “stony rubbish” of modernity, when they are familiar only with “a heap of broken images” — isolated and unassimilated shards of the mythical wisdom of the past? As he confronted the sterility of his civilisation, Eliot’s narrator concluded: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.” Only if we piece together these broken insights and recognise their common core can we reclaim the wasteland in which we live. ... In our rational society, we have lost touch with the mythical underpinning of our culture. Today “myth” often describes something that is not true. A politician accused of a peccadillo will say that it is a “myth”, that it never happened. ... When we hear of gods walking the earth, of dead men striding out of tombs, or of seas parting to allow a favoured people to escape, we dismiss these stories as demonstrably false. In our historical writing, we are concerned above all with what actually happened but when people wrote about the past in the pre-modern period they were chiefly preoccupied with the significance of an event.

-The Gneech

Hijinks Ensue [writing]

It has been said of my writing, and I tend to agree, that it needs "more action."

I recently read Billy Mernit's book Writing the Romantic Comedy, and one of the things he mentioned as a pitfall of romantic comedy writers is they tend to fall into the trap of having people sitting around chatting cleverly to each other, while nothing happens. Well, nolo contendere, I gotta say.

To combat this, Mernit recommends that the would-be romantic comedy writer make a point of including a "set piece" in their work -- i.e., an action sequence, or a location rife with comedic possibilities (a posh restaurant, a costume party, the Groundhog Day celebrations of Punxatawnie), wherein hijinks can logically ensue. The characters can still chat cleverly all they want -- but they'll be in action, rather than in repose.

I was thinking on this topic (among others) when I was watching Wallace & Gromit yesterday. W&G have a terrific knack for having lots of things happen, even amongst their light, tongue-and-cheek country cottage comedy. I mentioned the car chase yesterday as a particularly notable example, but really the movie is full of them. Heck, the whole climactic sequence at the Harvest Festival is pretty much one long set piece.

My problem is that I'm a word-oriented sort of guy; when I can pull off a bit of slapstick and actually have it be funny, I savor it -- but it isn't something that comes naturally to me. I need to start working on cultivating my Funny Situation Generator ... and I'm open to suggestions if anyone has any.

-The Gneech

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