Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: February, 2011

Documentaries and Brain Storming

Recently, I’ve finished watching a couple of documentaries, one on psychiatry (The Brain: A Secret History) and another about Japanese philosophy (In Search of Wabi Sabi).  I really love watching documentaries–I think as a film or television genre, it’s probably my favorite.  Sure, I occasionally watch movies or cartoons, but not very often.  And as for other stuff like serial fictional dramas and situational comedies?  Forget it.  I’m not interested.  I think it has a lot to do with my preferences on fictional reading: I really dislike reading series where the author blathers on and on and on about the same characters.  It’s really similar to a lot of TV series.  That sort of stuff, I think, is difficult to do well without repetition.

Anyways, with Script Frenzy fast approaching, it means I have to come up with some kind of an idea for a script.  Last year, I managed to finish a sci-fi script, but I ended up semi-vowing that I wouldn’t do it again and that I would leave it to people who were real script writers.  You know, the people who actually love doing this stuff.  I find script writing to be the literary equivalent of memorizing the Krebs Cycle.

One piece of advice that other script writers give is to watch a lot of movies.  I think this is sensible advice.  By seeing how others make a successful screenplay, you learn the sort of tricks one should use to write a successful script of your own.  But the problem is: I am no film buff.  I find myself in the sort of position that, say, someone who never reads wants to write a book.  So why the hell am I planning on participating in Script Frenzy in the first place?

Most of it, I’m afraid to say, is out of a feeling of responsibility.  At the moment, I’m the only municipal liaison for the entire state.  And as the ML, I really should set an example for everyone else.

But however burned out and disgruntled that I feel, I’m not the sort to just give things up.  So I’ve been thinking about possible ideas that would make me excited about writing a script.  Well, I’ve been watching documentaries–so why don’t I make a mockumentary or something similar to that?  Surely, since I’ve watched so many of them, I’ve absorbed what sort of story telling techniques were used to relay information to the audience in an entertaining way.  I’ve already written a Nanowrimo novel about a documentary crew.  Maybe I can write a script using the documentary style.

I was thinking of using a journalist as the main character. He or she would be dispatched to find out more about something that the journalist thinks is a bunch of woo.  Except it turns out it isn’t.  Exactly what sort of subject matter the journalist is investigating, I’m still trying to figure out.  It could go a lot of ways: horror (like The Blair Witch Project), fantasy (“Oh look, there really are unicorns!”), science fiction (“What? A mad architect really did design the Vdara as a death ray?), comedy (possibly a mockumentary), or mystery/crime.

But it’s still a month away so in the meantime, something totally different might pop into mind.

Alone on a Hill

Albright Grade, Lewiston, ID. 4 PM. Monday, February 21, 2011.

Belated From December 2010, Part 7

Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Lynchburg, TN.  Tuesday, December 28, 2010.

Belated From December 2010, Part 6

Valley of Fire. Friday, December 24, 2010.

Belated From December 2010, Part 5

Lake Mead. Thursday, December 23, 2010.

Belated From December 2010, Part 4

Death Valley & Scotty’s Castle. Wednesday, December 22, 2010.

Belated From December 2010, Part 3

Hoover Dam. Tuesday, December 21, 2010.

* * *

Ethel M. Chocolate Factory. Henderson, NV. Tuesday, December 21, 2010

* * *

Pinball Hall of Fame. Las Vegas, NV. Tuesday, December 21, 2010.

Belated From December 2010, Part 2

Death Valley. Monday, December 20, 2010.

Belated From December 2010, Part 1

Las Vegas Strip.  Sunday, December 19, 2010.

Descending Into Gibberish

During the winter break, I discovered the podcast series Radiolab and have been slowly making my way through all of them ever since.  (My parents don’t understand my enthusiasm for the series–maybe it’s the playful, artistic style of the podcast which is so different from a traditional newsreader.  Then again, I don’t understand their enthusiasm for contemporary Vietnamese ballads sung by botoxed middle-aged ladies, so I guess we’re even.)  Anyways, last night I listened to the podcast titled “Vanishing Words.”

The gist of the podcast is this: a computer science and English professor analyzing the texts of a variety of works discovered that in the later Agatha Christie novels, there was a 20% reduction in vocabulary, which roughly coincided with the time that people believed she might have come down with Alzheimer’s.  Other researchers, surveying a group of nuns, discovered a correlation between linguistic complexity of essays written when the nuns were eighteen and the likelihood of mental deterioration in their latter years.  The less “idea dense” the essay, the higher likelihood one would develop some sort of cognitive impairment.

All of this is correlation, of course.  No one’s proven one causes the other, even if it does.  But it does hint at something.  And as a writer, it makes one hesitate a bit before typing out the words.  Does my own prose predict what will become of my mind several decades down the road?  Does my relatively facile implementation of linguistics ensure that my neurons will be in working order while I’m yelling at the kiddies to get off my lawn?  Or does every trip to the thesaurus damn me to the drooling stare of senility?

“More research is needed before you jump to conclusions,” you might say.  And I’d say that you are right.  Whatever the case, though, this podcast struck a nerve.  I’m not afraid of getting old, per se.  It’s not about getting wiser or being more experienced.  It’s not about moping about things that could have been because I’ve never had the courage to do things while I was younger.  It’s not even about dying–because everyone dies.  It’s about losing mind and memories, because it’s those two things that make us who we are.  Without them, our identity is gone.  And I find that frightening.  Terrifying.

On the other hand, losing your mind in a Lovecraftian way would be marginally more scary.  But it would, at least, be a far more spectacular way to go.