Friday, May 10, 2019

HliAT #33: just barely making it (2)

How long it actually Takes to...

bike here from home
(3.2 miles)
after turning back ~three minutes into the ride
because you FORGOT YOUR BIKE LOCK (*!%#!)
which...well
maybe you could ask the folks @ the studio
(they know you. they're nice.)
to let you stash your bike in the lobby
just inside the doors, people do that sometimes
but u don't wanna take chances 
(it's not even your bike! you borrowed it from this cool guy, your housemate)
so yeah no 
turn around gogogo!
...arrive: two minutes before class starts
I.E., just fine
bike time15:04.93

This is a companion piece to HliAT #32, "Yes/No SPECIAL EDITION". It interrogates the same important question: how much money (time) do I leave on the table by overestimating the time it takes to do things? 

I think I got at all this in the previous post, but let me lay out my priors here.

  • I dislike being late because it deprives me of the pleasure of small, anchoring rituals that I enjoy before many activities, especially challenging physical activities
  • I dislike being late because it can be rude to the people around me, and makes me feel like someone who does not have their &h1t together, in a way that spills over negatively onto others
  • I find that the marginal value of time spent working once I know that I'm going to have to break in less than an hour is continually diminishing
  • clarification: of 'real' work; challenging work. Not of just worky-work or mechanical tasks. Those yeah you can just plug for another (say) 8 minutes.

I actually don't mind or want to change any of these things. But I do want to optimize on them; I don't want to leave lots of time around, wasted, all because I was protecting those extra two minutes at a yoga studio on my mat before class or something. I do not really need those extra two minutes, etc. (note: those extra two minutes, I say; time before class in some measure I do want, for the "small, anchoring rituals" noted above).

But now, disappointingly, I have to conclude that it looks as if there is no optimization to be had here. Review: I added six or seven minutes to this bike ride by forgetting the bike lock and having to loop back; I biked harder than I usually would, arrived ~2 minutes before the class started, and was more rushed getting into the studio than I'd prefer to be (again, remember please reader-friend: the whole point of HliAT is, to some extent, the delectatious exploration of the preposterous luxury of getting to think about time in this way, about days in this way, about structuring life according to the these patterns of exorbitant privilege).

Upshot: my usual time budget for this bike ride is 20 minutes, which I time to let me have ~10 minutes arrival. I probably left a little later than was optimal in a way I wouldn't have noticed, had I not messed up with the bike lock.

Takeaway: ~45 minutes before workout -- break work, commence prep is still right. Does it take fifteen minutes to get ready? Not quite; I'm burning a minute or two (literally) right there. Does it take twenty minutes to bike to the studio? About, but not quite; burning another minute or two. What this means is that all-in I'm probably "wasting" 5 minutes off optimal efficiency, and those 5 minutes buy me a lack of pressure and the added pleasure of doing a pleasurable thing even more pleasurably, which I count as being worth ~30 minutes a week.

Monday, May 6, 2019

HliAT #32: just barely making it

How long it actually Takes to...

okay, this is a weird one...
it's like a Yes/No HliAT: SPECIAL EDITION;
the question being 

can you make the 7:45am yoga class here
when you decide, sitting @ home at 7:19am, 
--which is a 3.0 mile, "mostly flat" bike ride to that studio per Google maps--
that you'd like to?

the answer being

yes. And it's not even stressful or 'nuts' or anything.

The slightly longer answer is: yes, just bike pretty fast. Not crazy fast! Just not in the super-chill way that you generally bike. You got there at 7:43am, which was fine.

Here's the much longer answer: this is relevant to ongoing efforts to just...make things take less time. Like generally, realistically, it seems that a one-hour workout that's a 20-minute bike ride from my house takes 2.5 hours out of my day. That's too much! I definitely don't dawdle; I also definitely know that I lose time on the front-end if...like if I'm doing a workout at 9:15am and I reach a break-point in writing at 8:07am, it's pretty hard to get back into it because I know there's this hard stop coming up; things like that add time to something that already takes too much time.

I think I'm going on and on about this because this was a little bit liberating; yeah f*ck*t let's go to that class [THROW STUFF TOGETHER] gogogogogo [BIKE FAST BIKE FAST LOCK UP BIKE TEAR OFF OUTER LAYERS] hi hey here for the 745 [SIGNUP ON LITTLE SCREEN; INTO ROOM MAT DOWN] o damn hafta pee [GO PEE BACK @ MAT JUST AS CLASS STARTS] is not...that is not my like optimum workout experience. But also, it was fine! It was not stressful. And it was.... well okay let's think it through. If I'd been ten minutes earlier, I'd have been happy. So if I'd left at-- yeah okay the thing is I've done this calculation before, and it's what gets us to 2.5 hours. What I was going to say in that last sentence was "so if I'd left at 7:15, meaning starting to get ready at idk say 7, it would've been fine"; and that's what I'd already figured out -- that 45 minutes before a workout that's a 20-minute bike-ride away is right. Which is exactly what gets us to the...okay it's probably more like 2h15m all-in, which is less bad. But I also guess this example isn't liberating, it's not liberating, or maybe 'liberating' in the sense of realizing that yeah: things take about as long as you think they do, if you've thought them through and tracked their constituent elements and all that.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

G** D**mit the "Famous" Egg Tart is Much Better

I had a whole post planned out here for you, team. I wrote it on the one-minute walk back to my hotel in Central from the famous egg tart bakery to which I'd just popped out, single $10HKD egg tart in little white bag. The post was like this:

there are these things that get anointed as the version of a foodstuff that is actually pretty demotic and widely spread out and--while they are good, often, these avatar examples--they are reliably no better than the 'average' example of that demotic foodstuff; in fact, sometimes, because the reason you've heard about them is marketing or whatever, they are less good than the average example you'll find, wandering around on your own two feet.

The post was longer; it had more jokes in it, more comparisons and stuff. But you don't get that post, because that post in this instance turned out to be wrong.

I was not even going to try Tai Cheong Bakery on this trip. Because of the logic laid out above; logic that, I should emphasize, I still stand by IN GENERAL.
you see this egg tart, fam? This egg tart is famous.
Buuuuuuuut -- I was sitting here, working. And it occurred to me that it was 8:29 a.m. And it occurred to me that the activation energy required to slip on my shoes and go downstairs to this famous egg tart-ery that is literally thirty seconds from the front door of my hotel was extraordinarily low; and that this famous egg tart-ery often had lines et cetera et cetera (this is true. I have seen them.); and that I had, in fact, wanted an egg tart this morning -- but laughingly (rightly) passed by some corporate bull$hit that was trying to sell me egg tarts for $25HKD cuz that $hit was written in English or something. $10HKD is high, but what I'd expect for a "high street, super-famous" egg tart. More than that is just nuts.

So anyway yeah my whole point was supposed to be: y'know what, it's delicious, but not clearly more delicious than the egg tarts that're $3HKD from those little tiny places in (say) Kennedy Town. And that being the larger point I would lay out in the post previewed above, and then—

But: stop. forget it. For I must yield to fact. For this egg tart, this famous egg tart from Tai Cheong...was kind of clearly superior to the 'average' egg tart. Low let's be crystal: by 'average' I do not mean some b.s. mass-produced, commercial centralized bakery egg tart. I mean the tiny little bakeries and cha chaan teng that sell egg tarts out their fronts in the mornings — those places. They make them fresh; they are very delicious.

But this one was better. Mainly cuz of the filling; the egg-y custard bit. I couldn't discern a major difference in crumbling pastry 'tart' part; it was good, but not clearly that different or better. But the custard was better. It kind of had layers? There was a flan-ish depth, beneath a top that was not just the very top responding to air, but like a 1cm layer that sort of thickened more, almost like a shell but not. I'd experienced things a bit like this—I guess it's something the custard does—but this one did it more, and more richly, and more notably deliciously.

Years ago, with one of my best friends, I went on a brief tasting tour of wines in Napa. We were both surprised—and, I think, a bit dismayed—to find that we could pretty easily tell the difference between some vineyard's $20, $50, and $90 bottles (I forget the exact price points, but you get the idea). I had certainly conceived of that exercise as a chance to free myself once and for all of the idea that I needed to buy more expensive wine, ever; it was interesting and surprising to have an opposite finding.

This isn't that strong — I did not buy this egg tart with any agenda. I wanted an egg tart, and one with a bit of narrative attached happened to be very close and I happened to know the exact opening time because only the famous places like this that cater to tourists etc. show up on google maps when you search for the stuff that I search for at 4:13 a.m. in Hong Kong. But I did buy this egg tart, and I loved this egg tart, and I tip my hat to it, and to Tai Cheong, for the excellence and distinction they bring to a classic food item.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Sun Hing @ 3:28am Today, March 16 2019

I've been to Sun Hing (this place) twice this trip.

The first was with my colleague F., during daylight hours. I remarked to him that I'd never been there during daylight hours; he asked me, as we were leaving, what it was like at 3 a.m. I had told him over email that I found it (always) pleasantly chaotic; he'd exclamation-mark agreed. F. is nice, and I enjoy spending time with him and his generosity about sharing his city with me.

The second trip was just now; arriving eating and leaving before about 4 a.m. The place opens at 3 a.m. -- that's one of its distinctions.

I want to tell you about my table.

I walked in, said "one" and help up one finger; the lady held up one finger and pointed me to an empty stool next to a lurching guy which had another empty stool to its right, but that one had shortrib bones all over the table in front of it so I chose the one next to the lurching guy. Who got up, shortly.

At my table were four people, together. Students, not college I'd say -- a bit older. I'm going left to right as I sat:

1L -- sort of a Platonic ideal of 'student'; like that character in a Chekhov play who is the quintessence of student, although probably a bit nattier of dress and presentation than that guy in the Chekhov play. White shirt; nifty hair cut -- talking enthusiastically.

2L -- a little older and thicker than 1L; wearing a jacket (blazer); a little less expansive than 1L but as engaged.

3L -- the only woman in their group, and poorly. Slumped in her chair; red-rimmed eyes; visibly 'holding it together'. She wasn't leaning or lurching or nodding off drunk; she looked more like someone with a very bad fever than someone drunk, although I'm pretty sure she was someone (at almost 4 a.m. this is, remember) sort of coming down from having been very drunk and feeling pretty rough about it. I wasn't "literally" worried she'd fall over or boot at the table, but you get the idea.

4L -- the only not-ethnically-Chinese person in the group; he looked Filipino to me, which to me--because of the biases of the narratives I have in my mind about the typical demographics of Filipino folks in Hong Kong, and who they are and the work they come to do--made his presence with these other three, speaking fluid Cantonese (or Mandarin, I suppose -- I cannot hear the difference) interesting. He had a different look, too; whereas 1L and 2L were natty and masculine, and 3L was prim in a "hip student gal" way, he had on a t-shirt and long wild hair. But he was locked in with the group -- I am differentiating him with my outside eye, based on appearance. He and 1L, seated farthest from each other, were also loudest and most engaged, and their laughing loud relays were the backbone of interaction at the table.

I got up to get my food; everyone at a place like Sun Hing is kind of sharp and abrupt -- they're like that with everyone, like in some contexts in New York, and you learn pretty quickly to see distinctions within it. The woman who poked me at a little plastic stool by the bones on the table was abrupt in a nice way; she was friendly and 'liked me' (I actually think she did; that sometimes happens once people see what I'm eating). The woman at the stall where the dim sum is stacked did not like me. It made no difference; I'm just saying. So I got my food (pork shortribs with rice from the little "hot drawers" that I feel very advanced for using; egg buns; chicken feet) and sat down,

by which time lurching guy--who had been to my immediate left--had been replaced by "other dude eating alone"...let's call him SoloDude. I liked SoloDude at once; he was dressed in the same efficient-casual way I was; he seemed to be going about his food in the same way as me (how he'd apparated into that seat, and thus apparated with food, is a mystery that is still and will always be unclear to me); he had an unrushed but 'hey, just here to eat some good food' manner that I felt reflected my own. We made eye contact 0 times during the course of all things.

The bones were still to my right. Then, they put down the wash-your-hands hot water bowl, tea, tea-cup, chopsticks, and spare little bowl for eating/bones/yourcall in front of me; then, the nice abrupt server lady leaned over me and said one word in Cantonese and--seeing that I had started eating without washing my hands and was not going to use the hot water bowl--used it to clean up the bones. So great.

Meanwhile, 3L is struggling. She gets up from the table for awhile, at some point. She goes outside, for cool air or to throw up, or both. She comes back, slumps again. She and I do make eye contact, and I effectively convey, "aw man that sucks, you feel shitty," and she gave me a very sweet rumpled smile that was like, "yeah, I really feel shitty." I was a little annoyed at her three companions for the extent to which they were all still going full tilt, yelping and laughing, while she was, y'know, visibly feeling like crap. 1L did keep refilling her tea, which I think was meant as a nice gesture; she was drinking her tea. She was not eating any more of that pork bun; no sir.

SoloDude and I made no eye contact. But he seemed to notice my food. It was a lot like his. He had pork shortribs with rice; chicken feet; tripe. In fact, the tripe was what I'd planned to have, had I not spotted the shortribs, wanted to challenge myself by going into the "advanced" hot drawer thing, and also felt like some rice. He put his bones in the little dealer's-choice ancillary bowl, which I appreciated about him and emulated as a choice; he clocked the fact that I had chicken's feet, shortribs -- didn't seem that interested in the buns. Interestingly, he seemed to clock that I did the obviously smart thing of putting the very saucy chicken feet onto my rice once I'd had enough shortrib to clear out some space. I like to imagine that he was clocking this with admiration. Perhaps not. Perhaps he literally noticed nothing about me at all.

I ate my food, got up to pay -- with the little chit marking down all the things I had eaten in one hand, and two of my egg buns in the other. I was intercepted on my way to the cashier by the lady who did not like me, who--in a gesture of hostly compassion--held open a plastic takeout bag for me to put the egg buns in. I'm pretty sure what she then said to the older gentleman manning the cashier station was "plastic bag, too" (there is often a small charge for takeout accouterments in places like this;

SIDEBAR
I find it interesting that you pay a little bit for takeout paraphernalia. Not because it's crazy or offends my sensibilities of what one should or should not pay for in a restaurant. Because it makes sense, and yet is also opposite of another different-but-reasonable paying rubric in eateries. What I mean: in New York City (or LA, or Chicago, etc.) -- you pay the same price for food you take out or eat in; you might pay a delivery fee for delivery, for the price for the food etc. is the same. In Hong Kong: you pay a bit extra for the take-out stuff. To which I say, 'sure, why not?' Those are physical things; they do have to supply them. Is it a tiny bit nickel-and-dime-y? Maybe. But these aren't fancy places--like, opposite, really--and whatever if I'm paying ten dollars for an excellent filling meal I'll pay thirty cents for my plastic bag and styrofoam tin. BUT, counterpoint: in London you'll often see two sets of prices: one to take-out, and one for eat-in, and in that market you pay less to take-out. Now, for a long time, I thought this was another intuitively logical thing: that there is a cost to cleanup of eating in, plus you're taking up space in the restaurant, so it behooves venues to just get your money, give you food, and get you out the door. It turns out that's not the case; it's just how VAT is calculated (less on take-away food; more on eat-in food). Except for one of these smart folks on Quora, who thinks that my first intuitive conclusion was correct and the VAT story is just a cover to allow venues to make up for costs of venue management and incent customers to leave tables free. So, who knows! But the point to me is that these are diametrically opposite approaches, both of which--to me, as the consumer--are like, 'muh. yeah, sure. that makes sense.'
END SIDEBAR


so I'm paying and next nice/fun thing happens. It's 83 HKD. I make a show of--well, no: not a show of; I actually do count out to see if I can give this guy something close to that, but I cant without breaking a 500, so I ask him to break a 500 and he does, and right as he's starting to he slaps 3 HKD down on the counter and I see what has happened, and then he plots 410 down in bills so we're good, but I hold up the 3 and say "seven" and he's like "what?" (of course) and--I'm really happy with how this went--I hold up fingers and I say "bill was 3" fingers, "so...7" (coins). And he got it! He paused, ducked his head and made a grunt or a word and put seven up on the counter.

And I left. And there was 3L, again taking in the night air, curled over herself in a dark stoop of the closed shop next to Sun Hing. We made eye contact again--I want to be clear she did not appear to be in duress; she was an adult, kinda bummed out and drunk-sick--and she said "[somethingSOghtingn]Hong Kong". Maybe, "Do you live in Hong Kong"?  And I smiled and for a second had the impulse you have when someone is panhandling you--to be respectful but say "no" and move on--and then I put away that urban reflex and did my best to understand what she'd said and I paused and said, "No just visiting. For work. Feel better!" And she smiled again like, 'oh, wow yeah -- not anytime soon'

and that was that...I walked home with two egg buns left,
the second of which I'm going to go eat now.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

I Cannot Overstate the Preposterousness of This

A theme of this series—'this' 'series' being me, humble scribe (hello. it me.) writing about the process of channeling the work that you, Reader, know as Erra's Throne

a theme of this series is:

things that many people,
your humble scribe most absolutely included,
have had the good fortune to be taught
about writing
since they were in many cases rather young;
things like 'show, don't tell';
'don't overwrite; or, if you do, go back and edit'; or, conversely,
'your best arguments and material may be buried behind many words of much less good material; be disciplined: sit down and work your way through';
all these things that, honestly, your humble scribe
has been blessed with the extraordinary good fortune
of having been taught by teachers
and even guided on by peers
since a very young age...

a theme of this 'series', perhaps the theme of this series,
is what a hard f#*king time I still have with these things.

This is why, Reader-friend, your scribe (me) is 'humble'. I have many faults, as a writer and person, but I promise that—at least in this case—affectation's not one. The humility's true and extremely well-earned; I am a broken vessel, and the best I can hope for is to patch, somewhat, some of the cracks in my making.

Thank you for journeying with me as I do!

I'll return, further down, to one of these simple lessons and my (latest) failure to learn it. But first,

A Digression about Putting Words in the World
I've written eight (8) posts about the process of writing Erra's Throne, including one in November 2017 (fourteen months ago) in which I first articulated and embodied this persona in this space.

I have drafted 49 posts, some of them hundreds or even thousands of words long (I originally typo'ed that to "hundreds of thousands of words long" which...l0l. It's not that bad), as part of 'this' ostensible 'series' of observations about the process of &c.

And, in fact, in addition to those 49 unpublished drafts, there are...wait holdon lemme...twenty (20) drafts in a Scrivener folder dedicated to this ostensible u get it.

The backlog of posts is not quite so bad as summation implies; there is some overlap between these two collections, and therefore the total of unpublished work in this vein is not quite 49 + 20 = 69. But, it is close. Close enough that the point, as I'm making it, stands: there's a lot of writing sitting around in some digital shed gathering dust. And what is striking about this, to me, for today, is that it is this kind of writing we're talking about:

loose, experiential, first-person commentary; the kind of writing that is supposed to (and does, indeed) flow rather easily and—more to the point—not require fine-tuning, chiseling, improvement;

writing that is instrumental and communicative rather than experiential and/or immersive;

'just talking 2 u' writing, rather than the carefully wrought (for worse, and for better) prose that shows you, dear Reader, the story of Emmy, and Stang, and of Erra.

I'm not sure why this is: why even this casual side-commentary seems to be trapped in the bēt ṭuppi of rigor and effort that still houses the prose of the story itself. I'm not sure why I have held onto it in this way. It's understandable with the prose of the story; perhaps not right, even in that case—that's another topic; let's not get diverted—but absolutely understandable: I can give an account for why the text of the story (for worse, and for better) is precious and takes certain work, certain iterations (many) to be ready.

But this stuff? Right here? This is meant to be not precious; meaning, in this case, both the positive and negative senses of that word (hopefully, with respect to the prose of the story itself, the negative sense attains...minimally, if that. I'm trying. ). It's easy, not hard; this. And it is: easy.

Yet.

I've got dozens and dozens of these posts, unpublished. Long posts, complete thoughts. Because they...needed a little more work, or weren't formatted yet, or...whatever! wutever.

I'm not sure I can articulate—in a real, useful way—what the holdup is. With any of this; certainly, not with this part. I was and am eager to open the process, to open myself to you, Reader, in this way.

I don't have more to say on this. That's where this is. w8, no— one thing, one more thing. That's pretty important:

Amidst all the work and the months and the years, it has also...not 'always', but 'usually' felt, in such a way that yes I think the feeling-of-this is real:

It's usually felt like I am making progress at something. ('At what?' Separate question.) That I am doing something material and real and that, in fact, the day may arrive—unexpectedly, perhaps—when the dominoes all are aligned and...tip:

down they go.

Okay. Enough of that. Back to:

"What is the 'This' That's 'Preposterous', scribe?"
⇑ That is you, Reader,
asking me—scribe—a question.
Here goes:

So, yes, the title of this post could apply to the section above: to the strange mystery of these posts, themselves, still being stuck in a locker. But don't worry, it in fact has a more defined and specific contextual meaning that

oh gosh Todd Snider has a new song that's fantastic

applies to a particular 'this' that's et cetera.

Lemme just plug it out; it'll be rough but hey hey here we go at least we're 2gether.

"just get there, just do it
and then…write something else"


That's the note I wrote. What it means:

"just get there, just do it..."
This is me saying to myself "don't mess around, don't write in extra stuff or digressions along the way, just get to the main story event and tell that, quick as you can."

I have 'realized' this so many times. So, so many. Honestly, I 'realize' this with the force and weight of a great new insight...mmm, two or three times a week? Honestly. I'm not kidding. I'm emphasizing both the repetition and novelty of this because what is 'preposterous' is the force and durability of its contrary, of this other thing in me and my...creative reflexes, let's call them. What I mean by this latter, 'preposterous' thing is

"and then...write something else"
Meaning the fact that, no matter how well I know that it's a bad idea, this impulse I feel
to 'build up' the story for the reader;
thicken it with events, with world-stuff—
all of which is done in a spirit of creative reflex (ugh) and 'inspiration' (UGH)
this impulse is powerful and often commands me.

And my point here
is that this? This impulse?
It is bad. So bad that, @ this point, let's call it 'preposterous'. 

It's 'preposterous', yes, (a) cuz I already know it. And the...fortitude of my ability to make the same mistakes over and over is shocking.

But why is it 'bad'? What's the substantive reason? I'm not just saying so, or kicking myself for no thing. It's bad because it is hard enoughmore than hard enough—to just tell the absolute essential story. You may have to write a bunch to, y'know, find that story. But once you've found it, even then — it's still hard! You're not done! It is not like the hard part is like...even half done! There is still lots of challenging (for me, at least!) work to do.

(I feel I may have written this sentiment, or a very similar sentiment, before in this space. I probably will again. Which...that's the point, right? Preposterous.)

And since I know this by now
since I know that
just writing the story is hard
this impulse to stack things above and before it
becomes not just 'bad'
but 'bizarre', 'perverse',
'preposterous'
et cetera.

Putting in an extra little setup fight
before the main fight ("just so it's not y'know klunky, abrupt");

adding some detail
of lore or world-building ("just so y'know it's not just flop: 'heyhey, all dun'")'

all that,
is bad!
uses time!
lessens story!

And you have to go back, take it out — make things better.

Yet despite this awareness, I'm continually doing it.
Add a thing; throw a paragraph in that oh, okay; two paragraphs...three
because it's not as if these digressions and distractions need to be long to be damaging to the story and the flow and the reader's attention;
a switch on a train track is a tiny, small thing
when compared to the miles, miles of track all around it
but a mis-aligned switch...
well, you get it:

train. lost.

Putting things into stories or art makes them...different. It is not just additive; it never is, just. It changes and reconstitutes everything in them; things that go before, even, and absolutely things ager. You put in more stuff: the story itself changes — it becomes a new thing.

So you have to be diligent, 'bout what goes in.

Here's the specific occasion that set me off on this (this time).

We're in Column Two.

What's 'happening' is reasonably simple, or should be.

The action-y climax of this part of the story
is a long sequence in which

  • Emmy seeks Rich out at school, cuz she thinks she may need him to do [important thing]
  • She talks him into doing [important thing] with her 
  • They succeed! They do [important thing]
  • Which leads to [climactic battle]
  • Which leads to [Emmy's key realization in this column],
  • which leads to a [Big Choice which has Big Effects].

Now I started this riff by calling all that simple. And...it is. Those literal plot-beats above are plot beats; you could do that with lots of stories at this level of detail and you'd get this bump-bump-bump sense of this "this, then this, then this..." (It's actually worse in narratives that aren't 'plotty'; try doing a beat-by-beat breakdown of Hamlet).

But it's not that simple, either. Of course: I know that. Especially because all those [things in the brackets] are crucial story moments that really need to land with you, the Reader, for the story to land. And for that to happen, it will really help if you—the Reader—have been served by the prose thusly:
  1. equipped with the knowledge (even if you don't 'know' it) required to make [thing in bracket] make sense; and hopefully more than just 'make sense', but matter;
  2. guided into an affective or emotional state such that you're receptive to whatever kind of [thing in brackets] is happening (exciting! tender! et cetera); and
  3. not freaking distracted by a bunch of other stuff that might clog up both your intellectual and emotional relationship to what's going on!
And now, again, we get back to 'preposterous'. Because: this is what I mean. (1), (2), and (3) are all...fundamental. Right? A good sixth-grade teacher with solid classroom resources could get his kids to come up with this list in discussion.

And yet! And yet...astonishing, frustrating, "preposterous": I add superfluous stuff to the flow! To the bulleted [things in the story], above, I add [off-track other things]! Details! Freaking...extras. In this specific case, my main (and repeated. repeated.) mistake has been to be like, "Oh okay cool good. Emmy and Rich did the [important thing]. They're heading to [climactic battle]. Good, great. Hey: I better put some [extra battle] and [stuff] in there."

????

What the...how am I like this? Reader, honestly, how? What on earth the matter with...what you write the story about is what the story is about. So, um, don't write the story about things that are not the story? Maybe? Might help? Dunno.

And look, yes I know, there are things that I'm...papering. Exploration is important; so is making mistakes. Because they're not mistakes, lots of them; they are steps in a process. But. The reliability with which I do this, is past that. I think? Or is it, a form of...

honestly. i don't know.

Let me wrap this, here. But: there you go. This is one reason why, when people gently and carefully ask if the reason that Erra is taking so long is 'writer's block' or some metaphor for lack of flow, action, volume — when people (gently! carefully! understandably!) frame this, I tend to give something along the lines of a harsher-than-intentional blast of grim laugh. It has edge in it that I never intend at the person — though I know I still shouldn't do it, and am still sorry if I've ever done it to you. But...no. No. The issue is not, not blockage in that sense; there are plenty of words and actions and events; even plenty of character moments, choices. And plenty of 'world-building'. 'World-building' is junk.

No: the issues is burning off all of that excess. Getting down to the thing of, just...story. words. Reader. So it's all strong and legible. Affecting. And clear.

Okay! That is it! 4 real now: I am done. I've done my best to make this clear; I am sure that I've failed and that it's still riddled with errors and infelicities, as well as being sprawling, strange, discursive, and odd.

And so I thank you, always, for coming along. Even if you just skipped to those big words, below. You can have them. Even if you're not reading (though: not sure how that'd work).

Thank you.

Here's to talking more in this new year.

game, game on.

Friday, January 11, 2019

HliAT #31: Yeah, You Walk Back to Get the [Thing] WITH BONUS META HliAT

How long it actually Takes to...

realize while walking on Old Street, right here
that you forgot the plastic bag with your workout clothes here
deliberate for a second (that darn Old Street roundabout), and then
"yeah of course" walk back
get the clothes (of course: right there in the bag, on the bench in the changing room)
and get back to the spot at which you realized your error: 12:29.68 sec

This is part of the recent trend (well, two HliATs going) of "yeah, it's not that long but it does take some time." Which I guess is the thing of HliAT, really -- I'd pushed it around to the counter-intuitive position of this commentary usually being about "hey, it's not that long!" But that was an overlay atop the increasingly unspoken assumption: $h1t takes time.

Try not to forget your stuff, therefore; it'll take "about 15 minutes" (exactly what I would've thought) to get it.

That said, if you do forget your stuff...a favored set of workout clothes while traveling -- probably worth "about 15 minutes", yeah?

Onwards.

Bonus Meta HliAT...

post this post, which is based on a HliAT timing you took on February 17, 2018
and which--this post, I mean--in basically this current form
has been in your "drafts" folder since...February 20th, 2018 (why in drafts? why did you not just publish it???): 
325 days, 6 hours, 35 minutes and 28 seconds

I used this handy site to work this out.

Update: I actually think it was a technical issue. Sort of a relief. I was like...what?

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Tickets: 2 of ...2 (??); also a dream about dogs

Okay so clearly I threw a bunch of these out at some point; I remember it vaguely, they were so worn I literally couldn't read the words on some old movie tickets, etc. I probably wrote about it here? This blog is a weird repository for things I no longer remember that I take the time to share with some folks like [TBD] # of times / year. Communication is strange.

Here's a Dream About Puppies I had (I know. u r welcome)
I slept a little fitfully for the last few hours of my rest last night, because I was really really convinced--like, I woke up and had to walk myself why this could not really be true--that I had (a) acquired two puppies, one of whom my brain called "Boxer" as in was a Boxer but, in fact, was not at all that breed (I had a clear mental image of the dog in my mind) but looked a lot more like a pug / shar pei mix. And there was another puppy, as well, though this one went both unnamed and unseen. And I had (a) acquired them, as noted above, and (b) stashed them--responsibly--at a friend's house. There's actually a specific friend, a nice family, whose house they were at in my mind. And I did this with this family's clearance, of course; or perhaps because they (the family) were actually somehow the keepers of these new dogs and I was just looking after them? And it was okay, I hadn't messed up, but I had left the Boxer / ??? pup in its cage for like not-nice too-long; like I should've gone by their place last night to feed it, walk it, etc. But hadn't, and I really needed to get there soon, now. And it was this rumbling unease through my sleep and my waking. One effective tool was to note that I knew this could not be the case because I had seen a member of this family posting on social media that day about hanging out in Santa Monica, so clearly they were still home and I had not (a) acquired two puppies etc. etc. But that's actually what it took. I'm not usually seized by limn hour fantasia; and anxiety wasn't even the driving force behind this one. I just...thought it was true. For a couple of hours.

(It's not true. I have acquired 0 puppies lately, boxer or otherwise).

Okay Back to these Tickets
I know you're not here for puppy dreams, but because: riveting tickets. There are many fewer than I thought! I think we can just...I think we're getting this done, fam!

First I am going to do a bonus digital round because it seems basically unfair that things I watch digitally--which is, like, most things at this point--have no tickets and do not get archived. And one thing in particular seemed worth noting to wit

The Surprise, by Mike van Diem
This is the sort of comedy that we're meant to call "dark" or "edgy" or something, because it's ostensibly about death although of course it is not about death, etc. But really, it's not. It was also really interesting to watch it through the veil of cultural filter -- it's Dutch, and seemed very...that. To me. Not that I'd know. I think what I mainly mean is that it was (plot-wise) about a sort of shaggy-dog speculative fiction crime-n-caper plot where a man and a woman both sign up for this high-end service that will end your life for you in a way of your choosing: with a loved one, by surprise, etc. The idea is that it is a relatively humane way to go, although the examples we see are not super-humane (although, certainly, the film is not about body suffering). But in addition to not being about the body-suffering, it's really...it has this skating-over the basic engine of the story quality that I actually liked (and that might have been what seemed a bit "Dutch", to me, although what the h. do I know), which was that these people's feelings/reasoning/motivation were touched on but really not the point; the point was this kind of antic madcap stuff surrounding "when's it going to happen? can we change our minds if we fall in love or whatever?" etc. And I liked it, a lot, despite a final final beat that seemed out of step with its general nice-spirited-ness and general treatment of its subject. The stars were terrific. It was well-plotted. Oh! I also thought it was cool that Mike van Diem, the director, won an Academy Award in 1998; and then...this feature in 2015. It could well be that the story behind that is a decade-plus of frustration, but also maybe not. Maybe he was active, happy that whole time, doing stuff; and then has these moments where he emerges to me, along whatever no-doubt very idiosyncratic vectors of marketing and artistic diffusion bring things to my attention. People can do their stuff for a long time, I'm saying. That's cool.

Okay now physical tickets. There's just a few left; it's more than is going to be fun, and that's what it is. I'm just going to lean into those feelings and do it. I will try to surface any negative feelings. I am ridding my life of these small bits of paper.

Ben-Hur
Aero Theatre
April 1st, 2018 7:20pm
I saw this with one of my oldest, best friends. He's a person who often goes to see old movies; I'm a person who very occasionally does, with him. It's always nice to talk to him about them after, because sometimes we argue but it's generally pretty productive as long as I can master myself and not be a childish jerk. I think we kind of strongly disagreed about things on this one, but I can't remember what! I was really struck by this movie. I was struck by the gravity and weight of the physical bodies (horses, people, buildings) in the gigantic scenes; I remember how people say about Tony Scott (I have no idea if it's true) that he disliked CGI and preferred practical effects, really filming real things, and how that gave his movies' action sequences weight and impact. I first heard this after seeing Unstoppable with a friend, and it certainly scanned for how we saw that movie. And  I always think about this when I'm seeing something like Ben-Hur because...yeah, I mean yeah. I think that I do feel and see it; it feels crunchy and tactile and real. I was also struck, at least at the start of the film, by how lived-in the characters seemed. I think that this is a function of era. Meaning: even as it was very clear that what I was seeing was almost crazily trope-y, movie-acting, movie-character stuff of this bromance between these two men, now adults...in movies we still just used to let people talk more. We'd less perfected the art of a four-dialogue-line disposable scene that needn't exist except to goalpost for the audience, "hey, this guy's brave" or whatever-whatever. It's interesting because these are the very same tools -- in Ben-Hur, they clearly were telegraphing to us: "hey, these guys are close." "hey, they're both very masculine." "hey, there's political tension." It's not like any of this was handled with the delicate touch of pure organic storytelling. But just keeping the camera on people, flat, and letting them talk a bit more; it can be really nice. It's old-fashioned, at least in a big entertainment like this. And I liked it. It's maybe why that scene at the very end of Avengers,when they're eating, is so nice. Cuz it's nice! It's just the camera, on them, chilling! Crazy! Anyway. And there was stuff that my friend and I disagreed about, qua the famous homoerotic subtext, which I think...I don't even recall? Maybe one of us thought it wasn't subtext at all? I don't really remember. I don't think this was one where disagreed because--this is a motif, with me and this friend--there's some aspect of the film that we both acknowledge as problematic (racism, sexism, etc.) but I just refuse to look past it and I'm like, "yeah so it's trash" meaning just: junk to me; and he quite reasonably is like, "okay yes, its values are trash, but still XYZ," and XYZ are generally reasonable points one might make about the film but I'm less receptive to them because I'm so jarred by the problematic stuff. In my defense, I can definitely take pieces of art in their different aspects and different...layers of achievement. But I find it very hard when I feel that there isn't adequate widespread acknowledgment of how terrible some aspect of the piece of entertainment is; like that it's fundamentally, grotesquely racist at its heart but that kind of gets skated over in how people discuss it. This is not my friend's fault. And also, I don't think this happened with Ben-Hur! Okay anyway next ticket:

Tully
The Landmark
May 13, 2018 3pm
Oh good not much to say about this one. In a good way. I liked it! I thought it was all those adjectives critics use: brisk, sharp, funny, 'smart'. It moved along at a good pace and told an interesting story with some ramification and thought outside itself. disclosure: I'm acquainted with someone involved in its production, so I'm primed to like it. But, well yeah: I did like it. So, ticket.

Three Days in the Country
Antaeus Theatre Company
Sunday, July 8 2018 at 2pm AND (!!) Sunday, August 5 2018 at 2pm
Whhhhhaaaat? I saw this twice? Yes I did and on purpose LET ME TELL YOU WHY. I totally wanted to. I never want to do that. I don't really re-watch or re-read things; I probably could benefit from doing so much more, in fact; at least, great things, things I've loved. But I don't really do it. But here's where I saw this production twice.
I thought it was terrific
I thought it was terrific and wanted people to see it; so I was happy to say to friends, after having seen it once already with a different friend, "Oh yes we should go to that together let's go."
I was very interested in seeing it twice (!?). Because: it is not a plot-driven play; it's Patrick Marber's adaptation of Ivan Turgenev's A Month in the Country and, while Marber does a lot to make it quicker and snappier and more contemporary-feeling than the source material, he also leaves the source material alone: this is a play about people wallowing around in bourgeois (mostly) malaise and heartbreak, and it's melodramatic (on purpose) and about the minutiae of their interactions and the moments between characters. It's a very lived-in type of play. And I wanted to see it twice, therefore, because (a) I probably wouldn't be bored; the "point" of this play is not what "happens", so knowing what "happens" would spoil very little; and (b) the production was good good good, and Antaeus often DOUBLE CASTS big plays like this (I assume because actors in LA are wont to flit off for lucrative gigs in filmed entertainment), so seeing all these interactions and characterizations and tiny little sharp beats between human desires with a whole different cast might be like A WHOLE NEW PLAY! And it was. The experiment was 100% a success. The casts were really different. The characterization in each performance, of itself, was quite different; how they interacted of course differed; even casting accidents or non-accidents like how two people looked alike or did not drew comparisons between characters that seemed thematic, etc. It is really rewarding to watch robust material like this performed by good actors, guided by steady and disciplined and pacey and specific direction. I'm really glad I saw this twice; both times were great.

2018 World Series: Boston Red Sox @ Los Angeles Dodgers, Game 4 (Home Game 2)
Dodgers Stadium
October 27 2018, 5:09pm
This was the most fun I've had at a baseball game in LA, even though it was a pretty disappointing game. The Red Sox were favored to win the series this year, and did so handily. But there's always capacity for big surprises in post-season baseball, and while my main baseball allegiance (such as I can claim to have one, at this point) is to the Yankees, I was rooting for LA certainly. And LA had given all of us reason to hope, with an historically long, insane game the night before: an 18-inning game that LA won 3-2, making the series 2-1, Boston. Meaning that this game, the game I was at on the following night, was the game that would show whether that crazy 18-inning game was a wild fluke, or if LA would even the series to 2-2 and it really would be a real series, and maybe we'd all reconsider Boston walking away with this thing. And LA took an early lead, so it looked possible and was very exciting! And then LA gave up that lead, and then really gave up the lead (the relief pitching was not very successful), and Boston...walked away with this game and the series. But we had fun! It was a nice night; I was very glad to be there, and with a cool new friend who was excited to be at a series game.

so...close... (actually no negative feelings. just saying).

Native Son
Antaeus Theatre Company
Sunday April 22, 2018 2pm
My ticket says "Native Son 2018", but I just checked the website and it doesn't look like it's one of the things where they slap the year onto a thing to emphasize that it's an adaptation or whatever; it seems like the show was just called Native Son, like the source novel. This production did not work for me! And I'm so glad I went! It didn't work for me because it's hard to adapt a novel like this to the stage (obvi), and I thought that the production and adaptation made bold thoughtful choices that didn't click for me. There's always this risk when you take a very internal character from prose and put them on stage or in film; because their interiority (which in prose can be fine, because you can be inside them in various ways) can be really alienating to the audience. The adaptation and production are way on top of this; the script has this embodied inner-monologue for the protagonist (who is a man who, externally, is not well seen or known by others) and allows us to see him talk out / argue out / act out his inner tensions, desires, impulses -- and how his environment impinges on his inner life in this way. I definitely have no thought on this choice, or no conclusion rather; I don't know if the production didn't work for me because that basic choice didn't fit for me, or--also possible, as the staging seemed good and the actors were excellent--if it was that it just somehow didn't for me convey the same tensions and level of thought or, in fact, drama of the novel's prose portrayal. Antaeus always does 'good theater' and this was no exception; it was a challenging theatrical enterprise (adapting a novel that is very rich and complex in its own right, as well as having the status of being an acknowledged classic an important testament of American culture and history) that a bunch of talented people took on with skill and thought. I'm glad I saw it.

City and Cosmos: The Arts of Teotihuacan
LACMA
Saturday April 21, 2018
I had to kind of root around to figure out what was up, here. This is the slip of paper:
Pretty dramatic, right? But so I was confused because I knew it was one of two trips I took over the summer to LACMA with N., my mentee, but I was quicker to remember the exhibit we saw on the second trip -- not this trip. This trip we saw a collection of Mesoamerican art from "the ancient city of Teotihuacan," which "flourished in central Mexico in the first millennium CE. This multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan city was the largest urban center in the Americas in its day." That's all from LACMA's site on the exhibit, which both N. and I enjoyed. I really enjoyed it; I think N. did as well -- hope so. We also went, later that summer, to "3D: Double Vision", an exhibition about the development of the art and technology of 3D imagery. At that exhibit, I saw this, which amusèd me some:
What I liked about this, which some of you will recognize, is that the object on the left is a Nintendo 3DS. That's a terrific portable gaming system that is currently, if not sunsetting, in its senescence; I on-purpose linked to Wikipedia for the product and not some Nintendo site because I'm not sure if the Nintendo site will still be good in a year or two. It's a great little system, and made me smile in this context because it wasn't being featured as an example in itself; its 3D-imaging feature--ironically, an aspect of console which is viewed, I think, as having had an unclear impact on its success--is just being used to show a picture in 3D because...it can do it.

There's nothing funny or interesting about this, actually. Or to you, maybe. That's totally reasonable. I just found it funny.

AND THAT'S IT FOLKS THAT'S DONE WITH THE PILE OF DUMB PAPERS.