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and may myself do nothing usefully
26 February 2007 @ 03:48 pm
Okay, I have to get this off my chest.

This class is called Rudiments of Fiction. FICTION. That means made-up stuff.

This is at least the third story I've workshopped for this class which was memoir. I say "at least" because there were probably more in the one-page stories that were actually nonfiction, but were so short the authors didn't have to mention their own names, or managed to avoid it.

Now, I write fiction all the time that's based on my own personal experiences and observations. And, I do enjoy writing straight-up nonfiction as well - I don't look down upon it as "lower than" fiction, which I think some professors do in a weird backward kind of way. But this is a FICTION class. There is another class for nonfiction. In FICTION class, we're supposed to be making things up, embellishing, delving deeper into stories we might have only brushed by in our real lives...we aren't supposed to be writing about things that really happened to us, and if we wrote about those things anyway, the least a student could do is MAKE UP A DIFFERENT NAME.

And it seems like the people who write memoirs for this class instead of fiction tend to take workshops personally. Because suddenly you're no longer critiquing the plausibility issues in a story, you're CRITIQUING SOMEONE'S LIFE EXPERIENCES, OMG. Which is a nasty thing to pull out your sleeve when defending your story: well, your critique is stupid because this actually happened to me. I don't care. If I don't believe it in the context of your story, it doesn't matter whether it really happened or not. THAT'S CALLED FICTION.
and may myself do nothing usefully
25 February 2007 @ 03:57 pm
I have dropped Business Law. Go me. No more Wednesday night class with homework I have no time for. Down to the regular 5-class schedule again.

However, I do not feel greatly relieved yet. Oh well.

Sat in the bookstore looking at the pictures in Dame Darcy's Illustrated Jane Eyre but ended up buying something else, in celebration of the fact that I'M FINALLY GETTING PAID AT WORK. It's Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood's Golden Age at the American Film Institute, which pretty much sums up the material. It has interviews with Fritz Lang, Frank Capra, Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Elia Kazan, Robert Wise, Federico Fellini, and a lot more...it's a very fat book. Should be fun.

Yesterday I took portraits of my friends using a pro light kit from the Digital Media Center, and my little Minolta - much clearer now that George-the-film-TA showed me how to clean the lenses. George also said he'd teach me how to develop film in the darkroom sometime. Anyway, we had a lot of fun - I was trying different lighting set-ups I'd read about to achieve chiaroscuro effects. Not sure if any of them really worked properly, but they looked cool nonetheless, and either way it was fun and interesting enough just to toy around with the pro light kit.

Meanwhile, as anxious as I am for spring to start, I want the snow to start up again (it was blowing quite strongly earlier today) so I won't have work tomorrow. Mergh.
voice: Go Sailor - Ray of Sunshine
and may myself do nothing usefully
14 February 2007 @ 10:46 am
Woo! No class today!

The gods have smiled upon us.

Now I'm going to crawl back into bed and read about Orson Welles. Jen and Adrienne are getting bagels. Later, I might go to the Inner Harbor and poke around Best Buy. Or maybe just watch movies all afternoon.

Life is good.
and may myself do nothing usefully
10 February 2007 @ 04:09 pm
Because I have the attention span of half a gnat, there have been relatively few stories that I’ve picked up and genuinely loved from page one – that, by some magic combination of character, setting, imagination and heart, have grabbed me from the start and held me all the way. Each of those stories has added something to how I think about writing, and each has repeated its captivating effect on me in successive readings. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster, Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard, the first three Harry Potters (yeah, yeah, you love them too!), Good Omens by Gneil and Pterry, Pride and Prejudice by you know who. They’re not all staggering works of literary genius, but they’re inevitably entertaining, smart, gripping reads.

Another one of these stories happens to be my mom’s manuscript, Through Nightmare, which I read in its early stages several years ago. I’ve been helping her promote her works by building a website, and every time I come across a piece of Through Nightmare I can’t help but stop to read it, despite the tangle of codes and website formatting that I should be devoting my attention to.

Through Nightmare is my mom, Elizabeth (Libby) Malin’s retelling of Jane Eyre. Since long before I was more than a pair of gametes wandering opposite sides of Baltimore waiting for the right time to get down to business, Jane Eyre has been for my mom what A Room with a View later would be for me. Inspirational – probably magical in a way – the kind of thing that grabs you and tells you a lot about life first, and then a little about writing a long time after.

Libby felt Jane Eyre’s enchantment fading a little, though, as the years went by, so she started a new project to capture what had captured her in that story back when it was new to her. Through Nightmare is the result. It’s not an exact retelling – there are enough twists and surprises to keep it new and fresh even for inveterate fans of the original – but like any good adaptation or homage, it goes beyond simple imitation to capture the original’s spirit and power.

In Through Nightmare, hot-tempered and fortune-slighted John Doyle struggles to find peace – or at least, a steady job – in 1930s Los Angeles. He’s hired as a chauffer and mechanic by the mysterious and sardonic heiress Pauline Sloane, a stunning movie star with wild habits and darker secrets. Their inevitable attraction offers only a mirage of happiness, however, as the two must overcome their past sins and recent transgressions to at last find rest and “love faithfully and well, where they are faithfully and well loved in return.”

Through Nightmare has received glowing praise from many editors over its years of submission rounds – one of whom said it was the best manuscript she’d read at her current publishing house – but each time it’s come close to publication, the marketing directors have shut it down, claiming it would be “too hard to sell.” We’re trying to prove those marketing directors wrong. Through Nightmare is now being serialized on mom’s website, LibbysBooks.com, where readers can email Libby with feedback, and where every bit of web traffic counts toward our goal of proving that this entertaining, moving, and entrancing manuscript has a place in current readers’ hearts and minds.

You can read Through Nightmare here:

THROUGH NIGHTMARE on LibbysBooks.com

where the first two installments (the Prologue through Chapter 6) are already posted. If you want to share your thoughts on the manuscript, contact Libby via the email address provided on the website. If you enjoy it (and, if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to stop reading once you start) please share the link with your friends, family, colleagues, and anyone else who would have fun reading it. New segments will be posted regularly, so check back frequently – I’ll also be posting here and on The Naked Filmmaker to alert you of new segments, and BronteBlog is supporting us as well by promoting the project and new installments. So if you’re looking for something to read on a quiet afternoon at work, or an exciting story to share with a friend and discuss instead of the usual round of TV shows, check out Through Nightmare. If you’re disappointed, I will personally allow you to slap me with a herring.
and may myself do nothing usefully
07 February 2007 @ 01:06 pm
So, my Financial Accounting professor has this habit where she uses the phrase "take and" as an auxiliary verb...for everything. I think it must be her own special shortened version of "take my/yourself" (as in, "Well, I think you might take yourself and go elsewhere," to borrow a line from Sandy Welch's Rochester). Out of curiosity, and as an effort to stay awake and pay attention during class, I kept a tally of the number of times she used the phrase "take and" completely gratuitously, including verb tense variations: we took and satisfied our notes payable or we've taken and adjusted for unearned revenue. I started about ten minutes into class, and I'm positive I missed a couple while I was jotting notes on the actual educational material (ha!) but the results are:

In forty minutes, she needlessly used the phrase "take and..." 142 times, which is nearly 4 times a minute (3.55 by my tally, but probably more if I'd caught them all) or once every 15 seconds.

tone: sleepysleepy
voice: Goo Goo Dolls - Black Balloon
and may myself do nothing usefully
05 February 2007 @ 10:15 pm
The Naked Filmmaker strikes again! A new post about Jean Epstein's 1928 Fall of the House of Usher, mostly concentrating on the modern addition of sound. Film geekify!

Read it here at The Naked Filmmaker

(My goal in Naked Filmmaker pimp posts is to use the word "naked" enough times to catch EVERYBODY'S attention.)
tone: coldcold
voice: The Wallflowers - One Headlight
and may myself do nothing usefully
30 January 2007 @ 01:06 am
OMG, I'm a pathetic excuse for a film major! Hahahaha.

See, for the past week and a half, I've been going out of my mind trying to find a "widescreen" DVD of the 1944 Jane Eyre with Orson Welles. And all I could dig up were 1.33:1 DVDs, which really bothered me because, well, you know my feelings on pan & scan (aka fullscreen reformatting). But here comes my true dumbass moment:

I was going to go to bed a while ago, but I stayed up, leafing through my film textbooks, following a hunch - the kind of hunch that, if true, makes me want to headdesk once or twice, at least. And it was true. Jane Eyre, like Citizen Kane and many other films of that era, was shot in 1.33:1. Which is why I couldn't find a "widescreen" DVD. 1.33:1 is the original aspect ratio. Here's the kicker: I'd read that chapter in Film Art last year, I just completely forgot it. From the book:

The coming of sound in the late 1920s altered the frame somewhat. Adding the sound track to the film strip required adjusting either the shape or the size of the image. At first, some films were printed in an almost square format, usually about 1.17:1. But in the early 1930s, the Hollywood Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences established the so-called Academy ratio of 1.33:1. (Strictly speaking, on most prints this works out to 1.37:1, but 1.33:1 is still referred to as the standard.) The Academy ratio was standardized throughout the world until the mid-1950s. ... Standard television screens also are in the 1.33:1 ratio.

That's why I'd assumed the DVDs I dug up were pan & scan; because Academy ratio is the same size as a TV screen, and hence the aspect ratio of pan & scan recuts. The real kicker is that in my above-linked rant about people complaining about widescreen DVDs, I used the term "Academy ratio" - it was lurking in my memory - but somehow I'd attached the term, in my head, to 1.85:1, which is the average modern widescreen, and that's what I was talking about in that particular instance. Apparently I'd completely forgotten the real Academy ratio's number.

Okay, I'm not really that mad at myself. I do feel pretty dumb, but mostly that's overwhelmed by the utter geekish delight I've got from looking all of this up. Oh, and the utter geekish delight that I can go ahead and buy one of those DVDs without worrying about destructive recuts. To sum up: EEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Now roomie's come back from her shower and she's looking at me funny, wondering why I'm sitting up at my computer now, with a book on my knee, when I was happily snuggled up in bed as she left the room thirty minutes ago.
and may myself do nothing usefully
29 January 2007 @ 03:38 pm
Virginia Woolf was right. Anger stunts creativity.

I'm vibrating with anger right now, and I can't focus well enough to sum up the feeling...an army of small irritations have joined forces with several long-term annoyances to set me off so bad I can't even say. It would make my day right now if I could go outside, kick a passel of puppies, punch two or three of my professors in the face, and then set the internet on fire.

And I don't have time before work to go to the gym and run it off, so I thought I'd make myself productive and do my Rudiments of Fiction homework, freeing up the time to go to the gym after work. Only I'm so mad I CAN'T THINK OF ANYTHING TO WRITE. All I can think of is kicking puppies and punching professors. AND THAT MAKES ME EVEN MADDER.



tone: aggravatedaggravated
voice: The Dresden Dolls - Girl Anachronism
and may myself do nothing usefully
26 January 2007 @ 06:35 pm
My screenwriting professor is the hoof-footed baby of Miranda Priestly and Simon Cowell. I considered dropping his class within the first ten minutes of its two-hour duration.

But I'm staying. Because I think I can learn from him. And he's a hoof-footed baby who's taught kids who went on to write stuff like The Break-Up, which, despite individual opinions, is still a Big Movie That Got Made. So I guess he's doing something right.

In other news, I went to DC this morning. The exact timetable:

I woke up at...
5:50am, to shower, dress, and catch a shuttle at
6:30, which I missed, so I caught a cab instead;
7:00 was my MARC train to Union Station, from whence I took the Metro to the Library of Congress;
8:30 I stumbled in half-frozen, and sat for my Reader Identification card; at
9:30 I finally got to the Motion Picture Reading Room, where I looked at AWESOME ARTIFACTS OF TOTAL AWESOMENESS concerning silent versions of Jane Eyre for two and a half hours.

Noon I left the LOC, wandered around the block one full lap looking for the Metro station;
12:30pm I found it, and at Union Station I caught a MARC train for
1:20pm, which dropped me in Baltimore at
2:15; from Penn Station I caught a cab and sprinted from the street to Gilman Hall in time for
2:30 class.

In my head, that's epic. And I want to do it again next week because OMG SQUEE SILENT MOVIE STUFF SO COOL and I barely made a dent in what the very nice librarian dug up for me. One of my favorite tidbits so far, from the January 17, 1918 issue of Wid's, an old trade, in the review of the 1918 adaptation of Jane Eyre:

CHARACTER OF STORY...Will please women and offend none

And this bit of old slang, from the same review, remarking on the revisioned plot:

You can never trust those French brothers-in-law - they're always apt to pull a nifty of this sort on you.
tone: exhaustedexhausted
voice: Josh Joplin Group - Camera One
and may myself do nothing usefully
25 January 2007 @ 12:25 am
Add this to the list of 459 Things Not To Put In A Grant Proposal:

Let's face it, I'm frickin' poor. You're not. About time to even that out, eh?

I couldn't help it. Don't worry, I backspaced before I forgot it was in there...though perhaps it could be more effective than I think...
tone: busybusy
voice: Alfred Janes Band - Lucky If Easy