?

Log in

Thorin's Journal

Recent Entries

You are viewing the most recent 25 entries.

20th July 2016

5:20pm: A writing goal achieved
For a long time, I had a personal goal of having seven literary pieces (short stories or poems) under consideration by publishers. I copied this goal from month to month along with numerous others until I gave up the practice as futile. But in June, I determined that I would revise my old short stories and write one or two new ones in order to meet this goal, and on the 1st of July, I finally succeeded.

Moreover, I'm proud of all the stories and poems I have in circulation. I believe that any one of them could genuinely be bought, and that I'm sending them to appropriate markets. I've made a wall of rejection, which I remember someone in an old writing group once doing--all my rejection letters arrayed together in a mosaic of right angles, colorful old letters mingling with printed e-mails from the last few months. Disappointingly, all but one of the modern rejections have been form letters, but I'm still hopeful, given that I regularly see stories printed in the magazines I'm submitting to that are (in my judgment) no better than mine.

I used to tell myself that if I could get seven pieces under consideration, I would have a sense of things churning behind the scenes and I would feel comfortable returning to novels. I have four stories and four poems currently being considered (and a fifth story to submit somewhere new), but I can't say I feel that sense of churning. Still, I am returning again to my novel Reba of Rivermill, which I left for some time due to losing months worth of revisions due to a faulty understanding of my back-ups combined with a hard drive failure. I feel like I've reached the point where my new revisions will be quite possibly better than the ones I made before, anyway. And some distance helps makes the novel new and delightful again.

24th June 2016

9:34pm: My 10th Annual Summer Solstice Adventure
On Tuesday, I went on my traditional exploratory adventure for the summer solstice! (The solstice was actually Monday, but I give myself a day or two for leeway.) This is a lengthy walk or bike ride from home to some local destination that seems excitingly exotic. This year, my goal was to ride my bicycle, Lord Chauntecleer, to the far southern end of Nicollet Avenue, a street that's long been important in my life. (Its where my first two non-college jobs were, for one thing.) I also wanted to ride along the Minnesota River Valley and, if possible, visit Burnsville Center, a shopping mall I didn't remember ever visiting.

I sent messages to a friend on AIM as I went, making me think it would be a good day to be on Twitter:

* I'm in a quiet churchyard next to Diamond Lake.
* I'm in the Minnesota River Valley Wildlife Refuge.
* I crossed the Minnesota River and now I'm resting in a McDonalds.
* Now I'm at a park with an amazing playground.
* Earlier I rode my bike through a shopping mall.
* I just waded through a complex water feature with tons of sprays and water dumps and fountains!
* At one point my bike fell in the muddiest mud and I had to clean it off with leaves.
* I have seen so many hawks today!

There was a lot more to it than that. My tenth adventure was a good one and a long one, complete with triumphs and travails. To begin with, I In no particular order, I saw huge ravens in addition to the hawks--there was even a heron or something in the sky before I set out, like a good omen. The quiet churchyard appeared after I found a surprisingly elaborate set of paths in the woods around Diamond Lake--I chose the spiritual fork. The water feature (or "Splash Pad") at the Burnsville Park was popular and fun, and the crowning feature is a bucket that you trigger by throwing a ball at to make it dump out the water. I didn't mind getting wet with my shirt off and my pants rolled up, since it was reasonably sunny and I was sweaty. The shopping mall was a partly roofed outdoor outlet mall in Eagan, and I only found out as I was leaving that they no longer allow bicycling. I think I've never been so delighted to see a McDonalds. I desperately needed to clean up and get a caramel frappe in me. I later ate at the most exotic place I could find at the Burnsville Center food court--a Pimento Jamaican Kitchen. At one point I saw fireflies. There were a weird number of bodies of water on my right.

A curious moment was my biggest blow. I was riding a beautiful River Valley trail with a few isolated muddy spots. One muddy spot had an impressive yellow streak running through it, and I wondered whether it was dry and how deep the yellow went. So I got off my bike to investigate. However, as I jumped the mud puddle to get over, I destabilized the ground my bicycle was propped up on, and it feel over into the mud! It was very, very muddy for such a small patch of mud. I didn't have enough tissues to clean it up, so I did what I could with leaves and a spare turtleneck I thankfully never needed to wear. Eventually, I finally reached the Cedar Avenue pedestrian/bicycle bridge across the river, a cute baby bridge next to the big one for cars. As I was crossing, a barge randomly passed under me! That was exciting. On the other side, I was able to access the river and took a break to rest and clean up some more of the stained side of my steed.

I did finally find the distant Burnsvillian coda to Nicollet Avenue. It was much hillier than its northern counterpart, or maybe I was just really tired by then. There were swanky intersections with terrible traffic lights. Apparently every traffic light in Burnsville has a lengthy left turn cycle. I guess turning left is the unofficial city pastime. After setting out at eight in the morning, I finally reached the end of Nicollet, a little unimpressive loop called Nicollet Court, at a quarter to four. I then spotted the shopping mall and took some time to browse. I expect I'll go back there come Christmastime.

Getting home was much less fun and took much longer than I expected. But these adventures always have to have a bitter side. Even my easiest Solstice Adventure, a jaunt to Nicollet Island (which you might call the counterpart to this year's quest) was marred by the then-new Niceride bike system. I was resolved not to return by the same bridge, which meant a long detour and a very achy me. Of note was the fact that, for the first time, I took my bicycle on the light rail.

Overall, my trip took fourteen and three quarters hours, and according to online maps, I rode a bit over 50 miles, much of it hilly or unpaved.

14th December 2015

7:35am: Christmas list
Here are some ideas for things I might like for Christmas (or my birthday on January 2nd).

First, some books I'd like to have:
* Anything by Allie Brosh--I read some of one of her cartoony books on a trip and enjoyed it.
* I seem to recall there was a sequel to Walter Wangerin, Jr's The Book of the Dun Cow. Not gonna Google it, but that would be awesome!
* Speaking of sequels, they finally put out a sequel to Rise Up Singing, the definitive song book for singing circles--my own copy of Rise Again would be nice. Normal size, not large print.
* I fondly remember the Serendipity books by Stephen Cosgrove, a line of beautiful children's books remarkable for having a moving, bittersweet feel. Some of those would be neat.

* I'm intrigued by the idea of playing Undertale, a game on Steam that my friends have been talking about! (On Steam I'm Derpy, at http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198171666446/)

* And for those rainy days that are also windy, I've sometimes thought what I could really use is a big umbrella. My normal-sized Eddie Bauer umbrella doesn't always cut it.

* I have several stocking caps, but I recently lost the nice wool knit cap I had for years that fit perfectly. It was sturdier than an ordinary winter cap, and big enough for my large head. A replacement would be lovely.
* And speaking of winter wear, I could actually use another pair of gloves.

* Then there are things I always enjoy--physical manipulation puzzles... posters of animals or landscapes or abstract colors and patterns or cool digital art... interesting books on things I might like.

As always, no pressure! I don't feel much need for presents, but they are nifty.

21st October 2015

3:42am: Today is a special day...
It's the day from Back to the Future Part II!

5th September 2015

6:50am: State Fair!
Enjoying my first ever sunrise at the State Fair!

27th August 2015

8:12am: My challenge
Giving myself 24 hours to rewrite a story I wrote years ago.  This is the third time this summer I've done this.  For this particular story, I'm switching from first person to third person omniscient.

19th August 2015

12:38am: Stories
Lately I've been rewriting short stories I wrote years ago.  I'm seeing some big improvements--I'm actually starting to love these stories again!

15th December 2014

5:29am: And the winner is...
~ Sally Forth! ~

It's not exactly my favorite strip in the paper--that would be either Arlo & Janis, F Minus, Luann or Doonesbury.  But it was the most consistent strip in terms of effort during the almost two months in which I winnowed out what I considered the worst strip in the Strib's funny section each day.  Sally Forth has changed a lot over the decades, or at least it's seemed so to me.  Both the art (currently by Jim Keefe) and the writing (currently Francesco Marciuliano) have changed hands during its run.  The characters weren't always insane, right?  And it wasn't always a dense repository of twisted observational humor and pop culture, was it?  I don't know.  But Sally Forth, which gives unusual weight to holidays and annual traditions, is perhaps at its strongest during the extended holiday season from Halloween to New Year's.  It benefitted from adorable art and cozy scenes--things like Christmas trees and gingerbread cookies made the experience of reading it heartwarming as well as humorous.  And yesterday's Sunday strip was a fitting climax for the whole affair, a homage to the wacky inventions in the art of Dr. Seuss with as much humor in every panel as most strips muster in their entirety.

The runner-up was surprising: Stone Soup, an ordinarily somewhat drab and predictable feature about a fairly ordinary family.  The writing is sometimes clever, but it's not usually brilliant--it just happened to be going through the equivalent of sweeps week during my little contest, with an extended storyline about the question of whether Val and Phil will ever get engaged.  This gave it a profundity that lifted it above the pack.  I was also surprised that Judge Parker narrowly made it to third place.  I stopped reading it long ago, but I guess I should start again.

4. Luann   5. Heart of the City   6. Doonesbury   7. F Minus   8. For Better or For Worse   9. DIlbert   10. Arlo & Janis

13th December 2014

7:24pm: Christmas wishes
Here are a few ideas of things I might like for Christmas...

MUSIC
* A kazoo, because I lost mine at some point
* New fuzzy/fluffy covers for my drumstick mallets
* Classical guitar music

PONY BOOKS
* My Little Pony: Journal of the Two Sisters by Amy Keating Rogers
* Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell by G.M. Berrow
* Bronies: For the Love of Ponies, edited by L. Lambert Lawson
* Any of the more recent comics

ODDLY SPECIFIC
* Boxes of 100 calorie chocolate-caramel Chex snack packs

ALWAYS GOOD
* Posters or pictures with fantasy, animal or abstract themes--colors a plus!
* Puzzles (other than the logic or jigsaw varieties)
* Markers--mine are going dry
* Books you like that you think I might like too

11th December 2014

11:41pm: Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol
So as I mentioned before, for over a month I've been playing a personal game in which each day I cut the strip from the Star Tribune's comic section that I deem to be the weakest of the survivors.  Just five strips remain, and now in order to know whether I should cut Heart of the City, I need to see Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol!  I've never seen Mr. Magoo at all before now.  So far it doesn't look good for the Philadelphia kiddies.

When I went to see Charles Dickens perform A Christmas Carol before Thanksgiving, one of the organizers confided that Mr. Dickens likes to watch adaptions of the story with her and her hubby after all the guests have left.  She said that their two favorite versions are the definitive Alaister Sim one from 1951, and A Muppet Christmas Carol.  Mr. Magoo probably ranks pretty low on the list!

8th December 2014

10:56pm: New lenses
I sat at the Wal-Mart Subway and weighed my options today, and I finally decided to go with the nicest replacement lenses from Wal-Mart's vision center instead of sending away with eyeglassdirect.com.  The manager seemed trustworthy, and this way my wait is shorter and I don't need to bother with packaging.  To my delight, it turned out that he just needed to trace the frames in order to cut the lenses for them, meaning that I can keep wearing my main glasses while I'm waiting instead of having to go a week or more with an inferior spare pair.
1:10am: Shopping for new lenses
I need to replace the lenses in my glasses, but my frames are still not too old and I want to keep them.  I'm trying to decide whether to chance sending away to eyeglassdirect.com, which seems to be reputable and competent, or to get it done somewhere local for a higher price and less delay.  I'm also trying to decide whether CR-39 plastic will be too thick given my moderate myopia, or whether I should go with polycarbonate, which is said to be lower in visual quality and is a little more expensive.

7th December 2014

12:35am: Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy
British comic Noel Fielding, who worked with Julian Barratt to create a very offbeat surreal comedy show called The Mighty Boosh, went on to write and direct an even more surreal comedy experience in 2012 called Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy.  The seven-episode first series is genius work--even better than The Mighty Boosh, in my opinion--and I highly recommend it.  I just watched the second series, however, and was disappointed.

The setting was different--a coffee shop balanced on the edge of a Hawaiian volcano instead of a deformed treehouse in a jungle--but that isn't really important.  The big change was that each episode was given a cohesive plot.  No longer were scenes randomly cut to--now the characters have motivations for changing from one setting to another.  Sometimes I think the addition of structure and consistency is just what a creative work needs, but here it just led to tedious scene and tedious plots, most of which were about the show itself.  It wouldn't work at all if not for the brilliancy bank account built up by the first series, which the second series gradually drained.  The half-comprehensible madness is missing, and it wasn't replaced by anything better than a shadow of itself.

1st December 2014

10:26pm: Cyber Monday
I began my Christmas shopping today with a big Cyber Monday moneydrop on ThinkGeek.com--sales and free shipping until midnight!  Beats makes several purchases from the same site bit by bit.
1:31am: Firefly
Just watched a Firefly episode for the first time in a long time.  It was the third episode, for the record, where they find a derelict hit by Reavers.  I was disappointed--the editing and writing were both a lot looser and weaker than I remembered.  Hoping I just picked the wrong episode.

30th November 2014

11:56pm: Delphi/Delpha
I kept rereading the Alvin Maker books (see my entry from a few days ago), yearning to find all the trial parts and unable to find the bit with the panel of Finders until today.  I knew that the homeland of my character Reba of Rivermill was influenced in various ways by this series, most of them unconscious at the time.  In rereading, I found a more uncanny connection in realizing that I'd given my main character's brother's wife nearly the same unusual first name as Card's main character's brother's wife.  As they're both minor characters, I didn't even remember that she existed until now.  But it scarcely seems like it could be a coincidence, and I certainly wouldn't have done it on purpose.  It's strange to me how that particular unusual name, which seems out of place to the setting, somehow managed to ingrain itself in me as an appropriate unusual name for such a setting, if you'll excuse the oxymoron.  I'll have to change it, but I don't mind.

With that, another month of daily posts comes to an end.  Many of them were made after midnight, but I did post every day by the common reckoning of days.  I was doing various daily exercises doing the same period, and it's hard for me to keep to doing something every day, so I'm satisfied.

29th November 2014

11:56pm: Crockpot
I just hosted the monthly filksing.  So soon after Thanksgiving, it was just four of us, but it was convivial.  I wrote a parody of "A Whole New World" about donuts... just because it had popped into my head at some point, and unlike most of the songs that do that, it had actually fit and not been embarrassing.

I also cooked a meal in a crockpot for the first time ever.  Lamb stew with potatoes, radishes, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage and spices.  I added radish greens later on.  It came out really good!  The others liked it too.  It smelled great and the broth and meat were just right.  I might have cooked the cabbage more and the other vegetables less, but I'm proud of it for a first effort.

28th November 2014

6:09pm: Captain Phillips
I finally watched Captain Phillips today, the 2013 film about the high-profile Somali pirate hijacking of an American ship several years earlier.  I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't see it sooner, given that two of the four actors in the featured pirate roles were from the Twin Cities.  The group's leader was played by Barkhad Abdi, a Minneapolis native who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance.  Seems reasonable to me!  Apparently the casting team had a major challenge in casting the pirates; they tried and failed to find suitable talent in the London Solami community before trying out area.  I remember a minor stir over the casting call at the library where I work, which is very popular with Somali-Americans.  No one there has mentioned knowing anyone who got cast in the movie, but I would guess there aren't very many degrees of separation.  The Teen Center showed Captain Phillips about a year ago and I got to see the ending before finally watching the entire movie today.

Yeah, it's a good movie.  Tom Hanks does well with the title role, and it's nicely suspenseful.  I haven't checked how accurate the sequence of events was, but I suspect it's accurate on all major counts.  It was educational to get a glimpse of modern shipping and naval operations.  The most entertaining thing, I guess, was seeing young Somali men in a very different setting from that in which I'm used to seeing them.  The pirates in the movie were the bad guys, of course, as in real life, but they were portrayed with a dollop of sympathy and without caricature.  I saw familiar speech patterns and personality traits to those I sometimes see with the young men (and women) I work with, including frankness, ambition, irascibility, and an intriguing sense of humor.
12:07am: Thanksgiving.
Had a good, warm Thanksgiving get-together and dinner with dear friends.  Just sorry it didn't last longer.

What I'm especially thankful for this year is a secret.  So I'll repeat what I said there: I'm thankful that there are so many people out there ready to be a friend to someone who needs one, when they need one.

26th November 2014

7:49pm: Renewed
I went to the Midtown building to renew my driver's license today.  My wait was about 45 minutes, but based on a fluke in the numbering system, it initially appeared I'd have to wait a lot longer.  I was reminded of the closing scene of Beetlejuice (1988) and now I want to watch it again.

I also reread Alvin Journeyman today, fourth in the Tales of Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card.  Great series.  Will the seventh ever come?
12:36am: Berry Punch?
My portrayal of background pony Berry Punch spilled her biggest secret to her fiance tonight.  He took it well and spilled his own.

25th November 2014

5:00pm: Chicken nuggets
Chicken nuggets have their uses!  One of them is serving as the highlight of a delicious winter soup. <licks lips>
12:29am: Rise of the Guardians
So much awesome, so much dumb.

Rise of the Guardians.  All I knew about it was that it was kind of a big deal when it came out in 2012, and that it was a 3-D animated adventure with flying sequences and snowflakes and Guardians and, based on the promotional art, one of them was a bunny person.  I had it mixed up with Legend of the Guardians, and based on an online conversation just now, I wasn't alone in that.  They are not related.  I expected this movie to be dumber and less amazing than it was, and that may be because I didn't know the premise.  So let me just spoil that much, in order to help anyone reading this see the movie if they want to see it: That bunny person is the Easter bunny.  The bird-looking lady is the Tooth Fairy.  The golden cherub dude in the middle is the Sandman.  Yeah, that should be enough to go on.

The visuals are breathtaking and if you squeezed the movie, creativity juice would sploosh out.  That said, I don't think the plot makes much sense--you basically just have to be a child and follow the movie's cues for how you should feel about this and that.  The biggest reason it doesn't make sense, in my opinion, is that the rules are inconsistent.  One of the big recurring visuals is a huge globe on which lights represent children and their belief, reminding me of the original Care Bear movie and its Care-o-Meter.  But is that belief in all the guardians or each individually?  Why does the effect spread so quickly if it's a composite?  How exactly does it correspond to their strength?  It doesn't add up.  And it should go without saying that, like with The Incrementalists which I wrote about earlier this month, if you don't know the rules, you can't really immerse yourself.

I have an artist friend I know would love the bird fairies, so I recommended the movie to her immediately after seeing it.  For everyone else, it's optional.

24th November 2014

3:40pm: Follow-up to a week ago...
...The Family Circus has finally fallen in my little game.  I was quite surprised how long it lasted.  Today's runner-up losers were Get Fuzzy and Peanuts, but I eventually decided they were just in a different league of stupid.
1:44am: A Christmas Carol and The Deathly Hallows
Today, for the second time, I had the pleasure of attending a live performance by Mr. Charles Dickens of his famous novella A Christmas Carol, or at least a modern fascimile of such.  Mr. Dickens was portrayed by a Canadian actor in the style in which Dickens himself performed his stories on tour for Victorian audiences.  The show was entrancing as before, and I wonder whether I remember a few lines being performed a bit differently.  He does change up exactly which material he includes, according to one of the hosts.  It was a fine and reasonable convivial gathering and now has me in a bit of a holiday spirit.

I was planning to watch some version of A Christmas Carol when I got home, but failed to find any, so I finally watched the final Harry Potter movie instead.  The Harry potter movies all strike me as well done but somehow unengrossing in anything like the way the books were.  Possibly it's because when you read the book, you build expectations and then sleep on them as you go along (if you're not a fanatic who reads them in one sitting).  Or maybe it's just an effect of having read the books before seeing each of the movies, although in many cases I'd forgotten much of the plot by the time I got around to it.  In any case, the thing that lingered most about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 was the notion that a Horcrux, storing a piece of the soul of a loathsome Dark Lord in need of destruction, could be placed in the body of a being intelligent enough to obey spoken orders.  The snake Nagini in the actual story is no more intelligent than that and thoroughly evil, but I enjoyed imagining a scenario in which they discovered the Dark Lord's snake was not only capable of carrying on a full conversation in Parseltongue but in his service against her will.  Then the killing blow wouldn't be so easy.
Powered by LiveJournal.com