Friday, September 30, 2011

Thirty Days To A New Me

Can't wait til my walking brings me back to the Punchbowl on Eagle Creek! Pic taken in 2007.
After taking inspiration from the TED talk I posted, I shared it with my husband, too. He also thought that doing something different or new for 30 days sounded like a good idea. He said he wanted to get in on it, as well. We talked about the different things we could do, and one of them was the walking every day idea. So we have vowed that we will walk every day for 30 days, and I'm going to bring along a camera and take a picture every day, too. That's two 30 day changes with one stone!

I also mentioned in the comments section a few other things I want to do as 30 day projects, and I think I'm going to try to do those, as well. It may be a lot of projects to take on in one month, but my goal is to live intentionally. If I start planning for these things, and incorporating them into my schedule, it will be a lot easier to change my life. For example, I wrote that I would like to do one chore every day that I don't normally do. My apartment right now is horribly disorganized. I figure I'm going to create a list of 30 things (fairly simple tasks) that I would like to have done and do them. Each job, while by itself isn't much, taken in aggregate over 30 days ought to have my home in shipshape in no time!

Likewise, I need to do a bunch of research on filmmaking, film financing, editing, lighting, and so on and I have a dozen or so books sitting on my shelf that I haven't gotten around to reading. If I read 60 pages a day, that is enough that I can highlight and digest what I'm reading, without completely overwhelming myself. I read between 30-60 pages in an hour, depending on how many pictures there are and how dry the read is, so it's a chunk of my day that I spend on learning rather than surfing the internet. I do too much internet surfing and playing around on facebook as it is. Once I've read those books, I can turn my attention to other topics! I've got tons of other books on my shelves that I haven't read, too.

The hardest thing for me to accomplish on my list, though, is writing 1000 words a day. It's not that the writing itself is difficult. A thousand words is only about four double spaced pages. It's the making myself sit down and actually DOING it. I have a hard time writing at home, since I don't have an adequate writing space. I need a desk and a chair (rather than a tv table perched next to my bed that I set my laptop on and write) where I can be comfortable and get "in the zone".  But, I figure if I can get myself in that mind frame of sitting down and writing something everyday, it will help me when it comes time for NaNoWriMo* in November.  For that, I need to be able to write 1667 words each day.  So--baby steps, right?

But I'm looking forward to this experiment.  I may have taken on too much at once, but we'll see. I just read a blog about treating your life as if it was a business and the author, AbbyinOz, described how she scheduled everything in her day and did so based on importance.  I figure if I do something like that, and schedule what I plan to do, maybe it will be easier.  But I'm going to be flexible, because I may decide the way I have things scheduled isn't working.

Hey!  I guess that's another 30 day thing I'm adding to the list.  Scheduling my time and making plans so I can live a more organized and fruitful life.  Wow.  I'm on a roll...  I officially start my 30 day experiment tomorrow, October 1st!  I decided to start it at the beginning of the month so that it would be easier to keep track of from month to month.  If I like how this turned out, I expect I will be giving myself new challenges in November! 

*For those of you who don't know what NaNoWriMo is it is National Novel Writing Month and you can sign up to write 50,000 words in one month.  I tried last year, but failed miserably by week two because I didn't have the habit of writing every day burned into me.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Love TED Talks!

I always learn so much from them. This one, in particular, is very short, but it's brevity in no way means it's any less inspirational! I'm going to do it. Now to just figure out what I want to do for my 30 day experiment... I'll let you know what I decide and I'll blog about it! If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them. OH! And if you want to do a 30 day experiment with me, that would be awesome. Like, say, taking an example from the speaker, we do a photograph a day. We could share our photos each day! What fun!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Demon Salt

Some smoked sea salt hubby got at a scratch 'n dent store.
I have never been one to add salt to my food. Not at the table, nor while I'm cooking, either. I learned from my mom growing up that salt was a thing not really necessary to add to food because most foods have naturally more than enough sodium to meet our daily intake requirements. So I never added salt to my boiling cream of wheat or my pasta or my soups (except on a very rare occasion). I didn't even add salt to my home-made french fries. I would substitute garlic powder. NOT garlic salt.

In my family, when I was growing up I noticed we didn't buy a lot of prepared foods, either. No canned goods, no boxed up meals, no TV dinners, nothing like that. (My mom wisely pointed out to me that it was cheaper to make your own from scratch then buy a boxed meal.) So my entire life has pretty much been avoiding salt. When I see people adding salt to their food (especially without even tasting it first), I shake my head and wonder how in the world they can do that. I see chefs on TV adding handfuls of salt to stuff, saying that it enhances the flavor of the food. No it doesn't. It makes the food taste salty.

Lately, though, we've been pretty broke. Damn economy, damn hubby's health problems. You know the drill. Anyhow, because of it, we have had to be much less choosy about what we cook. Family and friends have given us food (stuff from boxes of food they got at food giveaways and were things they didn't like), and we take their donations with a glad and thankful heart. We've even picked up an occasional food box ourselves. In addition, we have been shopping at scratch 'n dent stores like Grocery Outlet, Everyday Deals, and whatnot. They get all kinds of different foods for super cheap. The stuff found at these places are close to date, or the packaging is munched, or are overstocks. But you can find cheap stuff to feed your family and stretch the dollar. It's to the point that the boxed refined stuff is cheaper than the fresh healthy stuff for us.

While I try to buy stuff that is good for us and budget for fresh meat and vegetables, more boxed or canned goods have made their way into our kitchen. And my husband likes to cook (not that I'm complaining about that!) a lot. He likes the "gourmet" salts. He brought back some pink Hawaiian sea salt from Hawaii when he visited there a few years ago. A few months ago we found a package of specialty smoked salt flakes for $1 at one of those scratch n' dent stores and he snatched it up. And he adds salt to the food from time to time when he cooks. I discourage it, but he likes it. Though, I have to say his smoked salt is pretty tasty lightly sprinkled on corn on the cob.  Dammit.

Wow. Just wow. It is amazing to me how much salt makes a difference in my diet. Salt really seems to affect me these days. Last month, when I lost all that weight, I think much of it was water weight from too much salt intake. I had totally cut out as much salt/prepared foods as I possibly could, ate less and tried to eat better and dropped 10 pounds. This month, I still worked on portion control and being more active, but my weight has been all over the place. I realize that I've been eating more prepared foods and saltier foods this month. I notice after I have a particularly salty day, my ankles swell for a couple of days and I put on a few pounds of water weight. It's ridiculous.

So, note to self. I need to start cooking for myself more. Hubby may like to cook, but I can't eat what he prepares. He shouldn't eat what he prepares either, with his health problems, but that is another subject. Eating right is going to cost us a lot more. I just hope we can work it into our budget somehow.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Script Table Reading On Saturday

Oh my goodness.  Saturday was a big day for me--the day I had my first feature script read by a bunch of folks.  It's my first draft, and I'm trying to improve it, so I organized a table reading so I could get input from the readers about what worked and what didn't.

I was so nervous!  I ended up with an upset stomach.  Seems like stress and nerves always does that to me.  Anyhow, I really had no reason to be stressed out.  As it turns out, the folks involved in the reading enjoyed doing the reading, they liked the script, they laughed at the appropriate moments (as far as I could see, anyway), and for the most part anything that they pointed out as needing work is stuff that I suspected needing fixed anyway.  I had a number of areas that I knew needed work and I had some suspicions about some things needing to be cut, like the mentor character, and they agreed.  They gave me some awesome suggestions plot-wise, thoughts on stuff to add and expand on, how to make the characters a little more realistic, and helped me in the areas where my language might have been a bit dated for the teens.  I love that my son asked me what time frame the movie took place, because he pointed out that some of the language would have been fine in a certain decade, but not in present time.  Luckily for me, not too much of the language I picked was outdated.  I told the teens that I wrote most of their dialogue based on my observations of teen conversations that happen on facebook (and elsewhere on the net).  I used the slang they use as much as possible to give it a modern day feel.

My biggest struggle I'm having is trying to decide if this should be R rated or PG-13.  I want the dialogue to be natural, and to do that, I would need to have more curse words and the f-bomb sprinkled throughout the script.  Sailors could learn a few things from listening to the way teens swear nowadays, I tell ya.  So to have a script be pg-13, I would have to delete the F words.  That just doesn't feel real to me.  And for a script that has no references to sex or nudity to be made an R rated movie for those few stupid curse words just seems really really stupid.  I'm not sure what to do about that.

Anyhow, overall, I would say the reading was a big help.  I want to thank all those that participated--my husband, Micah;  my son, David; my niece, Emily; Chrysann; Lynsee; Addy; and especially Alan, who loaned me the use of his business so I would have a nice quiet place for everyone to sit and have plenty of room to spread out the snacks.  I hope you all felt well-fed and felt like you got as much out of the reading as I did.   

THANK YOU!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

"The Best Substitute For Experience Is Being Sixteen" -- Raymond Duncan

Willow started fourth grade last week.  It's pretty amazing how quickly time has passed us by.  I can't believe she will be ten years old in December.  She is getting so grown up!  I'm so proud of her and how smart she is.

I think Willow is very people smart.  She is really really good around people.  We can go to a new place filled with people she's never met, and she will be perfectly comfortable, gabbing with adults and practically having them eating out of her hands.  She smiles a lot, she's funny, and she's a bubbly little girl.  It amazes me that she can be so grown up and yet so child-like all in the same kid package.

When I was little I got along great with grown ups, too.  I remember feeling comfortable talking with them, but like Willow, I read a lot, and as a 4th grader had the vocabulary of a high school aged kid.  Maybe she gets that from me.  Although, as I look back on it, I don't think I conversed with the adults or bigger kids so much as just listened to them.  I listened, observed, and learned.  Willow doesn't really do that.  She listens and observes what people do (damn, but sometimes I wish she wasn't so observant) but she gets right in there in the thick of things, too, whether it's with adults, older kids, kids her own age or even younger kids.

There's a downside to this sometimes, though.  Lately she seems to be developing the words and attitude of a teenager, but she still has the maturity of a child and doesn't understand the consequences of what she says sometimes.  This weekend she has shown more attitude to me and her father than I have ever seen.  Or, perhaps she does understand the consequences, but she lets her anger and emotions gets the better of her so she doesn't really care.  Not at the time.  She's impulsive.  Impulsive is something I never was.  She probably gets that from her daddy--Micah has no patience and wears his heart on his sleeve.

I'm wondering if this is a sneak peek to what things are going to be like when she is a teenager.  Or worse, this is just the tip of the iceberg and it all starts now.  Because if that's the case, I'm gonna need help.  I don't need a sixteen year old masquerading around as a nine year old, thank you very much.  And when she does finally reach sixteen, gods help me. 

Thank goodness she is still young enough to believe that we are ultimately in charge and that she needs to do what we say.  I am thankful that I am able to talk to her once she calms down and explain things in a logical manner that she can understand.  In words she can understand.  No anger, no saying she is bad, but explaining how things went wrong and explaining how things can be made right again.  But I could see how she could easily be willful enough to do whatever the hell she wants as she gets older.  She already tries to stomp off mid-conversation and we have to call her back.  Someday, she'll get into trouble--rather than taking the time to calm down from getting angry over being in trouble, she'll take off and then who knows what will happen.  There will be no explaining.  There will be no working with her.  And I see this as just a matter of time.  How much longer is the question?  And is it a foregone conclusion I'm going to lose my baby girl?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Television-What I Like To Watch

We don't watch the boob tube much.  No cable and the digital TV's reception in the few TV's I've seen without cable always sucks.  The picture always pixellates or digitizes or whatever you call it at the most unfortunate moments--times where the show is about to do the Big Reveal or the climax or whatever and it is super super annoying.  So aside from America's Got Talent and The Sing Off, I pretty much steer clear of watching TV as the show is happening. 

I try to be very selective in what I watch.  In my own experience in watching TV in the past (and I'm supremely hard to please when it comes to television), I am not usually amused by half hour sit-coms.  I just can't get into them much.  Most of them just aren't that funny to me.  I never got Seinfeld.  I thought the show was stupid.  And the characters in a lot of sit-coms are all such horrible stereotypes--the hen-pecked husband, bratty kids, shrew wife, overbearing mother-in-law, etc.--that watching them becomes like forcing myself to drink ipecac.  They make me want to vomit.  I have much better things to do with my time.

Instead, what I do is listen to what other people say about their favorite shows, and particularly people who I respect as writers.  For example, my television writing instructor would tell us about this or that show and whether it had good writing.  He made a point that the level of writing between cable shows and regular network (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, etc.) is usually very different.  The network TV shows have to stick to a basic format and have regular interruptions for commercials.  TV shows on cable networks like Showtime and HBO get to write longer episodes and don't need to make those same breaks.  In addition, the cable networks can allow much grittier content--more nudity, violence, bad language, etc.  I can't count how many times I heard him go on and on and on about the TV show Dexter.

I finally got around to renting the first disc of season one of Dexter from Blockbuster.  Oh, yeah.  I should tell you that is how I watch television.  *Warning-rest of this paragraph will sound like a commercial for Blockbuster, but alas, I am not being paid to shill for them. Which is too bad.  Cuz I could use the money.*  I get discs sent to me in the mail from Blockbuster.  I get an unlimited number of discs sent to me in the mail, and I get to trade them in at the physical store for more when I'm done with them, which is cool.  It's the main reason I haven't switched to Netflix.  That, and I don't do streaming.  And waiting for DVD's to come in the mail would irritate me.  I like to turn them in and get more right away.

Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  Dexter.  So I watched that first show with my husband.  After the very first episode, we just looked at each other, smiled really really big smiles and I think I even may have giggled like a schoolgirl.  That show is fucking awesome.  We were hooked with the pilot.

We are now Dexter-holics.  We went through all of season one within a couple of days.  Then we rented season two and then three.  Season four we watched several months ago and then discovered there weren't any more out on DVD.  Oh agony while we waited and waited and waited for season five to come out.

Last night, we just watched the last few episodes of season five.  And now we have to wait a whole year for the next season to come out?  Oh, noooooo!  Say it isn't so!  I have to say that Dexter is my favorite show EVER.  It has the best writing of any TV show I have ever seen.  It continually offers thrills, suspense; the tension just builds and builds.  Ohmigod I wanna be hooked up to the brains of the writers of that show, and use some device from Fringe to steal their creativity and fire for myself.

Aside from Dexter, I have several other TV shows that I've been slowly working my way through in my Blockbuster queu.  The X-Files (never got to see the last few seasons, so I thought it would be fun to go back and watch them all in order),  NCIS (Mark Harmon is hot hot hot and I LOVE Abby), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fringe, The Sopranos, and I just started Deadwood and Heroes.

I remember when I first heard about The Sopranos, I had absolutely no desire to see it at all.  What could possibly be redeeming about a show about a bunch of mobsters?  But then I watched the pilot in my gangsters and musicals film class.  When I saw it, a brilliant light bulb went off it my head and I understood.  The writing in that show is fucking awesome, too.  I like how gritty and real it is.  I like Dexter as a show better, but in terms of real, The Sopranos is better.  My one quibble with Dexter is that I think he should be fired from his job as often as he takes off from work.  That just doesn't feel real to me.  Oh, and that for some reason Miami seems to be a haven for serial killers, as often as he comes across them.  Go figure.  But the acting in both shows is sooo good!

Just started in with Deadwood and HeroesDeadwood started off really slow, and I've only seen the first two episodes, but I'm starting to get into it a little.  I'm going to rent another disc and if I like it, I'll keep watching.  Heroes, though, I'm diggin', even though I've only seen two episodes of it, too.  It's a lot of fun so far. So I'll keep watching.

I've been watching Big Love and The L WordBig Love is starting to get too ridiculous for me, so I've sort of dropped it.  And I just don't like Bill Paxton's character very much.  He just gets worse and worse for me.  The L Word is a lesbian soap opera and I detest soap operas, but for some reason I seem addicted to this one.  It's my guilty pleasure.  Although I confess it is kinda weird to have my eighteen year old son come on out and watch the show with me.  I think he likes the show now, too. Must be the steamy lesbian sex scenes.

I keep hearing about people's favorites, and different people say "Oh, you should watch ___" (fill in the blank), but really, I want to finish up the series of the ones I'm working on currently before I bring in some new show to watch.  It takes me a while to get through them sometimes, especially the big successful network shows like X-Files and Buffy, where there were a billion episodes made.  I started X-Files first, and that was about three years ago and I'm still trying to get through them all.  I guess it takes me so long to get through it all because I also rent films, too. 

If I had to say whether I think regular network television programming is better or cable television programming, I would say that it is hard to choose.  The shows I'm watching right now have fantastic writers, and the shows just seem to be consistently good, whether they are cable or regular television. With the exception, perhaps, of Buffy--there's been some episodes that weren't so great--but I watch it anyway because I like her feminist message and it's always fun to see vampires, ghouls, and demons get their butts kicked in comedic ways. It's kind of schlocky sometimes, and sometimes schlocky is just what the doctor ordered.  My two favorite shows (Dexter and Sopranos) right now are cable network TV shows, but I still really enjoy what "regular" TV has to offer.  I especially enjoy renting them, too--no commercial interruptions!

What TV shows do YOU like to watch?  What are your guilty pleasures?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Don't Go Outside Script Table Reading

So I've got a location and at least half the volunteers I'll need lined up.  I even had one of my filmmaker acquaintances say he'd like to film the process (he just needs to get a camera lined up), which would be wonderful for me as something I can watch and look back on and see where people might be tripping up and figure out what sounds natural and what doesn't.  If he can't get a camera, I may ask one of my other filmmaker friends to do the same.  I don't know why I hadn't thought of doing that before he volunteered, but it is a really really good idea.  

This is starting to shape up, so I'm excited!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weight Loss

Well, I'm still having difficulty with the walking around and my general fitness and activity level.  However, I HAVE been working on my food--eating less, portion control, and all that jazz.  As a result, I've lost 10 pounds so far off my heaviest weight.  Whee!

I figure I have another 15-20 pounds to lose before I can get back to where I could walk around without my back complaining so quickly.  It will still hurt at that point, just not as much and I know I could really start walking a lot more easily.  I've done it before at that weight.

Sooo...hopefully just another couple of months to me feeling a lot better.  More energized and so on...

Why does gaining weight have to be so easy and losing it so goddamn hard?  I suppose that's the story for a lot of men and women, but I tell you sometimes it feels like it is especially true for me.  It sure is a major pain in the patella!*

Grumble grumble grumble.

*Yes, I know the patella is the kneecap.  Sure, I know most people say pain in the ass.  I chose patella for a couple of reasons.  This phrase is accurate because of my joint pain from being morbidly obese (though my hips and back bother me even more).  Pain in the hips doesn't have the same ring.  Pain in the patella is nicely alliterative.  :)


Table Reading of Don't Go Outside

Don't Go Outside is a vampire horror script I wrote.  I finished the first full-length draft back in February and I've been letting it digest since then.  I find that when I write,  whether it be short stories, novel chapters, scripts, what-have-you it always does me good to shelve what I wrote after I'm finished.  I need to wait for a good few weeks to a few months so that when I go back to it, I can look at it with fresh eyes.  Often, what once seemed like it was sooo good to me now sounds like crap and I wonder what the heck I wrote that section or this section for.  It's a good thing, really, though sometimes a painful process.

Since I finished my first draft back in February, it's been more than a few months.  The story has been percolating in my brain and I've realized some story plot holes and things that need fixing.  It's time to do a table reading.  Time to have a bunch of people take different parts in my script, read them out loud (completely cold--no one is allowed to read the script beforehand).  That way, since it is new and unfamiliar to the readers when it is read out loud, it will be much easier to see where the dialogue is off, where stuff doesn't make sense to the participants, and afterwards they can all pick it apart and trash it for me, plus give me the good news (there's gotta be some good news in there somewhere, lol!). 

I did something similar for my Nine Levels and Prognosis short scripts, and I think the process helped those scripts in very dramatic ways.

I  can't wait to get a venue in order, because once I do, I know a bunch of folks who would be willing to read it.  I just need to find a place that doesn't mind 10 or so people hanging out for 4+ hours and is quiet so we can hear each other without outside distraction.  I've had a couple of offers for locations, and I've emailed them, but I'm waiting to hear back from them. 

I'll keep you posted on how it all goes!  I can't wait.  Table reads can be lots of fun, even if they can be simultaneously draining.