Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rediscovering the Writing Thing

So I've been trying to keep up with my New School Year Resolutions, namely the one about writing every day. And something I think I forgot - but that I'm remembering now - is that I really, really like writing. If I had the time, I'd write for 3 hours a day or more. In fact, I wish I could just write all day and rehearse all night and forget about everything else. Not true; I still love stage combat. So I guess if I could arrange my schedule the way I like, it'd be swordfight, write, act, all day long. Every day. If I could do those three things every day, plus bring my dog here to live with me, plus discover a way to eat only chocolate and popcorn without any adverse health effects, then I'm pretty sure life would actually be perfect.

I also love learning as long as no one's grading me on my learning. For some reason learning for credit makes my brain go into power-down mode. Maybe it's that I'm supposed to be learning boring stuff for credit (like what holds the universe together) whereas when it's on my own time I can learn about sweet stuff (like dead, supposedly crazy German kings). You know, things that really impact my life. Um. But this love of research makes the "pre-writing" stage its own particular kind of fun, because not only does it give me an excuse to pick up a whole lot of trivial information; it also gives my research a focus and a purpose. Which makes everything easier.

So right now for one project I'm researching:
- James Buchanan
- Comic Books (art, writing, and the industry in general)
- San Francisco
- Concept Art
- Graphic Artistry
- Storyboarding
- Army wives (the real people, not the show on Lifetime)
- Artifact/antique collectors

My other favorite part of starting (or restarting) a project is choosing the writing playlist. This one relies heavily on:
- Priscilla Ahn
- The Weepies
- Ingrid Michaelson
- The Eels
- Brett Dennen

I love that I can spend hours on the second floor of the HBLL reading James Buchanan's memoirs on microfiche and then sit at home reading Will Eisner comics and call both of them necessary research. All while I listen to some sweet, mildly quirky indie folk - you know, because it's important for establishing mood. Yeah, it's a good life I've got. Now if I can just find a way to incorporate video games into my new found writing life so I won't have to feel so bad about playing Twilight Princess during homework time...

I do think that it's going to take me some time to really get back into the swing of writing and researching again. It's definitely been a long time since I've done this with any regularity, and it shows. But it's a start, and for now I'm good with that. I've said a couple of times that I feel like someone who blew out her knee playing soccer, and now after several surgeries and months of recovery she's been given the OK to get back on the field only to find that she's back at square one. She wants to throw herself back into the game with all her old power and skill, but she has to go through some re-training first. That, more or less, is where I find myself. It'll come back, but right now it's not as easy as it was a couple of years ago. Not that it isn't an awful lot of fun.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weekend Progress Report

Accomplished this weekend:

I learned to cook with tofu and it was delicious! This is good, because I'm on a reasonably high-protein diet and I hate hate hate cooking with meat. With the exception of some types of fish, raw meat grosses me out in the extreme. I'll go to great lengths to avoid having to actually touch the stuff (usually a fork in each hand can do the trick, but I've certainly tried more creative maneuvers in the past). If I do touch it, I typically lose all appetite for whatever I'm making. There's been more than one episode of me throwing out large quantities of raw chicken because the process of thawing it got too icky and I couldn't take it anymore. And I don't even go near raw red meat except for the occasional, very carefully handled steak (is it my fault if I happen to make a mean steak marinade?). We're talking, like, once a year at best. What I'm trying to say is that I've got some pretty major meat neuroses. Plus I adore animals in general*, so it's probably not that long before I give it up and become a vegetarian**. So it's a really, really good thing that I can cook tofu, and that I LOVE it. I tried this recipe for marinated, baked tofu squares. If you want what I made, leave out the smoke flavoring, do slightly less soy sauce, replace the sesame seeds with flax seeds, and replace the hot sauce with a spoonful of salsa and a generous helping of cayenne pepper and chili powder. Oh, and throw in some cumin. Because, I mean, who doesn't like cumin? I ate them with my pesto pasta today (I kind of like random flavors mixed together) and I craved it for the rest of the day. So good!

I also learned to knit. Well, started to learn. More on that as it develops.

I made my New School Year Resolutions. I prefer to make resolutions at the beginning of the school year, since that's really how I measure time while I'm in school. After graduation I'll switch to the more traditional January method. Anyway, I made two of them. Here they are:
  1. Write for at least one hour every day. (Not counting blogging...unless I get lazy later and decide it counts.)
  2. Read scriptures for 1/2 hour every day, to be broken up into two 15-minute increments (one in the morning and one in the evening), or if that proves too difficult, three 10-minute increments (to be spread throughout the day). Possibly portions may include non-canonical study, ie Lives of the Saints or the Tao Te Ching. We'll see.
Hopefully if I stick to these resolutions I can actually be more of the person I claim to be - namely, a writer and a religious person. I'd also like to start some kind of formal exercise (for the first time in my life, no less!), but I'm not quite to resolution level with that one yet.

I found a dramatic monologue for my Auditions class, though I might not stick to it. Choosing monologues is the worst.

I got rid of Creepy Grocery Store Guy. It's a long story that I aim to blog about more fully once I've finished the guitar ballad I'm writing about it, but about a month ago I had one of the most bizarre pick-up experiences of my life while standing in the book aisle at Smith's. In a dramatic mix of idiocy and morbid curiosity, I wound up giving the guy my number. Fast forward a month, and he was still calling and texting (once he sent a model-pose picture of himself with the words "Do you remember me?" at the bottom. Weird, weird guy). Well, by Friday night the whole thing had gotten terribly unamusing and besides that I never wanted to be one of those girls who just ignores all your phone calls for months on end waiting for you to get the hint so I just texted him (I figured texting was acceptable since we never once spoke on the phone and besides that he doesn't speak english with a whole lot of confidence) and said the following: "You seem like a nice guy and i appreciate that you think i'm beautiful, but i don't think this is going to happen. I'm sorry. Please stop trying to call me." Short, to the point, not totally mean (right? I'm still a good person. Right???). Haven't heard from him since.

And I figured out what I'm going to say at my character presentation tomorrow
for Lughnasa rehearsal. I mean, I need to write it all out and organize it, but I made all the decisions about background, likes, dislikes, and basically who she is in general. Which I'm told is a good thing that will prove useful in my acting (who'da thought?).

Failed to accomplish this weekend:

Read The Double for my Dostoevsky class.
Looks like it's online plot synopsis time for me. Which is sad, because it's a really good book and I like it a lot. And I mean, I got halfway. That's pretty good, right?

Have a social life.
Wait, 5 hours of rehearsal and 3 hours of a Burn Notice marathon while I "do homework" - those don't count as having a social life? Curses.

*But I'm a chronic pet owner which places me much more in the Animal Welfare camp than with Animal Rights Activists, who don't believe in animal ownership...but I digress.
**I should say, "become a vegetarian again" - I was a vegetarian for about 6 months of Freshman year and I loved it. But I decided to quit once I moved off-campus because I didn't know how to think about nutrition. Or cook. Like at all.

ALSO: I chose a new blog template. But that just happened and it isn't likely to stay this way for long, so it isn't in the main part of this post.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Romance and a Mad Bavarian King

"Happiness is the experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude." - wrapper from the Dove chocolate I just ate

King Ludwig II, king of Bavaria (1845-1886) used to sleep from 3 pm to midnight every day, instead of all night like most of us do. At the end of his life this was seen as further evidence of his supposed madness, but personally I think it just points to his genius. 3 in the afternoon is the start of Julie's sleepy time - you'll find me more sleepy at that time than almost any other period of the day. But no matter how tired I get, I always stay awake, rendering the late afternoon and early evening hours of every day effectively useless. I come back alive around midnight every night - my creativity is most awake then, I have some of my favorite friend experiences around that time - but by then I'm so tired from staying awake all day that I only get a few magical hours before I collapse into my bed. But I don't just want to sleep in because I actually kind of like mornings, provided I've had enough sleep. Especially misty mornings touched with dew. Man, I can't believe it took me this long to figure out how backwards I had everything!
Now I just have to convince everyone else to adopt my schedule so that I won't sleep through all my rehearsals and performances. Hm.

So lately - well, tonight, mostly, though the idea has been simmering for quite some time - I've been thinking that my life needs to be more romantic. Not romantic in the John Cusack way (not that I'd mind that), but in the fairy tale kind of way. More adventurous. More fantasy-like. You know what I'm saying? I am not, however, totally sure how I am to accomplish this. I'm already spending at least 6 hours per week swordfighting by virtue of my job as a stage combat TA*. So that's a good start. And I'm thinking I should also choose my clothes a bit more carefully. Definitely I should start wearing more dresses. This one in particular. Seriously. Does that not just scream "Romantic!"? And the model even has super short, dark brown hair, just like I do! It's perfect. My dream life is obviously imminent. Once I've secured my new wardrobe, it's just a matter of finding a devastatingly handsome man with a castle, a fortune, and an accent. Who will fall in love with me, obviously. Bonus points if he has some deep, dark secret (a family curse, for example) that I can discover so we can deal with it together and then live happily ever after.

Tying back to Ludwig II**, his life serves as a cautionary tale against taking your fantasy life a little too far. He was called the "Dream King" or the "Fairy Tale King" in Bavaria because he pretty much preferred fairy tales to his own life. He was obsessed with Wagner, both the man himself and the romantic stories in his operas. A major focus of his life - an extraordinarily expensive hobby that led to the crushing debt that contributed to his betrayal and overthrow - was building castles. His most famous, now called Neuschwanstein, was the inspiration for Cinderella's castle at Disneyland. Check out that picture. Beautiful, right? Imagine if I walked into that castle wearing the dress from above. Perfection***. The interiors are just as lovely. Many of his castles also include other fantasy elements, such as a fantastically-lit grotto or oriental pavilions. At least one included a water-filled catacomb where Ludwig would ride in a boat while musicians performed for him. Just incredible.

The problem, of course, is that Ludwig became so caught up in his imaginary life that he completely withdrew from the real world. By the end he was hardly seen outside his castle, where he allowed almost no visitors. He spent his time having midnight picnics and moonlit sleighrides, going to private concerts and other performances where he could be the only audience member, and planning new castles for which he had no money to finance construction. He fell deeper and deeper into debt. His people loved him (he rather liked talking to farmers and other commoners during his various outings, which certainly helped), but no one seems to have really known him outside his trusted servants and the one or two close friends that he corresponded with throughout his life.

Finally he ignored and irritated his cabinet so much that they, suspicious that he was going to replace them, conspired to have him deposed. A former-friend-turned-enemy collected gossip and stories from a few of the king's friends and many more of his disgruntled former employees, wrote a report, and got four prominent psychiatrists to sign a recommendation that the king be removed from office due to insanity (without having the psychiatrists examine him at any point). Then the cabinet's delegation went to Neuschwanstein, where they were thwarted by a combination of the king's personal guard, a large group of Bavarian commoners, and one eccentric lady who beat them with an umbrella. The king imprisoned them, threatened their lives, and released them. It was said that if he would go to Munich and make public appearances to curry favor, Ludwig could maintain his throne. He was advised to do so, or to flee to Austria. But Ludwig did neither. Perhaps he just wasn't used to coping with reality anymore. Anyway, in the end, Ludwig lost favor with his people and the cabinet succeeded in imprisoning him at one of his smaller castles - the same place he first entertained Wagner, in fact. Now it had been converted into an asylum. Peepholes were drilled in the walls and most of the artwork was removed so the walls could be painted clinical white. They didn't let him keep his brilliant 3 pm - midnight sleep schedule anymore. And all his most trusted assistants were gone.

A day or so later, he went for a walk with his psychiatrist and never returned. Both men were found drowned in the nearby lake, circumstances unknown. In a way it's kind of nice that Ludwig got to end his life both tragically and mysteriously. Pretty impressive from the "dramatic life" perspective. But the actual experience of living it has got to have been pretty sucky.

Stories like these make me grateful for my art, because I can live a fantasy life for a while, but in a constructive way that eventually allows me to return to normal life. I'm also really glad that I wasn't born into royalty, because for all that fairy tales make it look pretty great to be a princess, most of those people were (and in many cases, are) deeply and profoundly screwed up. But beyond that, I think Ludwig's life demonstrates the importance of balancing an active imaginary life with a very fulfilling real life. It's okay to go on a days-long writing binge, for example; just don't do it so often that your family forgets your first name. Or to spend 14 hours a day in rehearsals and performances, so long as you can spend some time on you and yours at the end of the day. And spend an entire weekend reading your favorite book series if you want, but I wouldn't recommend it for all-day-every-day for the rest of your life. Because the thing that Ludwig forgot, I think, is that life - regular life, the ordinary, day-to-day existence that we're all experiencing right now - is much more beautiful and complex and intriguing than it can sometimes appear from the inside. And it's terribly, wonderfully worth living.

I can still want to wear the pretty dresses, though, right? And while we're at it, where's that man with the castle?

*Seriously guys, I love that they pay me for this.
**You know you're having a strange day when everything seems to lead back to Ludwig II.

***Except not in the summer. Apparently they get up to 6,000 visitors a day in the summer.

Related reading:
Wikipedia article on Ludwig II - always a good place to start. The Schwangau tourism site also has a pretty good, rather biased biography. You can find your way to more information from there.
That gorgeous dress was from Nordstrom. I don't know if they sell that exact dress there anymore, though.
Picture of Neuschwanstein shamelessly downloaded from Desk Picture.