7 August, 2004

What is this? The journal for the last couple of weeks has turned into a story session. I'm telling humorous anecdotes. I'm recounting things that have happened. People will get the mistaken impression that I live an interesting life. They'll think I go out and do stuff. I jump off mountains and run naked through the desert. No, I don't do anything of the kind. I was going to tell the story of the exploding showerhead, but I've changed my mind. I've got to tell you about the narrowly adverted catastrophe that happened last night. Oh, boy, I am so lucky. Of course, I'm not lucky for something I would actually like to be lucky about such as figuring out how to attract people to my website and how to interest them in buying a copy of my freaking book. I would settle for some bored book critic picking-up one of the copies I sent out and actually writing some words about it in whatever venue they happen to work with. I wouldn't mind something insanely terrible written about it because at least that would mean that it would be mentioned in their publication. Okay, I would mind a really lousy review. That would just be horribly depressing. My ego, it would be shaken to its core. If only I could be so lucky as to have something like that happen. Oh, well, I just don't know how to grab people's attention, or the things I would have to do are those types of things that I simply refuse to do. Yeah, it is probably one of those.

I am lucky in ways in which it is good to be lucky. I've got not getting hit by a car luck as one comes barreling through the intersection with a driver who appears totally oblivious to the fact that somebody is in the crosswalk. Yeah, I've got that kind of luck. The good kind.

I've got stumble right into a pack of baby skunks who are too busy scarfing down the cat food that the neighbors have left out for the feral cats to bother spraying me with stink luck.

Yeah, you heard me. I was doing laundry last night. Yeah, that is right. I typically do laundry on a Friday night. I'm not out partying or dancing or drinking it up. I'm home doing laundry. My apartment complex has centralized laundry rooms so Friday night is typically a good time to find empty machines. It all works to the good. Anyway, as I was walking back to my apartment with all of my just out of the dryer clothes, I noticed one of the feral cats that is always sitting around behind one of my neighbor's apartments just hanging out. There's a whole mess of bushes as I approached the spot so I didn't have the best look at him, and it struck me as I continued to walk with all of my clothes over my shoulder that this cat had some white spots. There are two feral cats that hang out around and behind my apartment, and one of them is black. The other is dark brown. Neither one has a white mark on him. So, I started to slow down because I am aware of the fact that we do gets skunks in my neighborhood. They aren't around as much as they used to be, but they are there.

There used to be a time when it was downright dangerous to walk the streets of my neighborhood at night because of all the people who would leave out cat food. Those skunks just loved that cat food. I remember many was the night I would be returning from class at San Francisco State, and I would just walk down the middle of the street. It was the only safe place. The skunks would be sitting in front of people's doors eating all the cat food, and then they would scurry to the shelter of the bushes or the cars.

So, I've gotten pretty good at spotting a skunk from a mile away. Okay, maybe not a mile away but I recognize a skunk from a distance in the dark when I see one. I've also picked-up a thing or two it is good to know about them. For example, it is very good to know that they don't want to spray you. It is an option of last resort and is kind of like their version of a nuclear weapon. The first thing a skunk will do upon seeing you is raise his tail. The critter wants to make damn sure you know that he is a skunk and that he is prepared to nail you with his ultimate weapon if you give him any trouble. It is also good to know that a skunk would rather run than stand and blast you. There is this foot stamping move they do when they've been cornered and they want it made absolutely clear that they have in fact psyched themselves up to do the smelly deed.

But, back to the story. It was an unfortunate fact that because of the bushes I couldn't really see this particular black and white cat very well at all. Still, I was cautious. I was walking slowly, and then I got enough of a look. And, I said it. No holding back.

Holy Shit!

Because there wasn't just one skunk hanging out behind this apartment I have to pass. Oh, no. There were several, and they were too small. They were baby skunks eating the cat food that my wonderful neighbor had left out for the feral cats. No, seriously, I know these neighbors, and they really are nice people. So, I was trying to count, but I couldn't because of the bushes and my natural survival instinct. Baby skunks? Baby skunks? Oh, man, all bets are off. There must have been four or five of them there, and I had absolutely no way of knowing how mom and dad were going to react to some stranger walking past their precious little darlings. Would they spray first and ask questions later in-order to protect their babies, which are really cute by the way. No, I'm serious. Skunks, in general, are cute, but baby skunks are one of the cutest things you have ever seen.

So, I had left the path, and I was making with the wide circle around them, which means I was now standing in the grass. And, I was suddenly worried that I was standing in mud and that I might slip and I really was not sure if this would attract the skunks' ire. I had also noticed that the feral cats that usually call this place their domain were staying way back and watching the whole proceedings with a kind of annoyed interest. Oh, and the most important thing I had noticed was that every single one of these skunks had its tail in the air.

But, I couldn't restrain a certain amount of curiosity as I was making with the big circle in the grass. I was trying to count them. I swear that there must have been five of those cute little baby skunks. Well, I decided that I had observed them long enough. They appeared to be far more interested in the cat food than in me. I really must remember to thank my neighbors for the cat food. First, for attracting the skunks. Second, for keeping them occupied. So, I made with the really big circle and got all the way around to the front of my apartment, and I didn't have any trouble. I ran through my apartment to the back door so that I could attempt to look out through the bushes and see what the skunks were doing. I almost couldn't see them at all. So, I got my Polaroid camera, but there just wasn't enough light to try and get any shots of them. I figured I was safe if I just opened my window and tried to shoot them that way.

Oh, yeah, and the skunks didn't run off when they were done with the cat food. They all went to the hole under the tree. Yeah, the same hole I've been complaining to my landlord about for years. The one I keep telling them obviously must be somebody's home. The hole I've told my landlord on more than one occasion I have seen skunks hanging-out around. All the baby skunks went to that hole and disappeared.

Of course, I still had to go back for the rest of my laundry when it was dry. So, I did the only sane thing. I figured out what path to the laundry room would take me absolutely nowhere near the tree behind my neighbor's apartment.

Yeah, that was the big excitement, and I think it is time to shift doing laundry to Saturday morning. I'm not going to divulge exactly when, but there does tend to be a good time to find empty laundry machines in the late morning. They're always all full in the early morning, and there are always lazy people leaving their stuff in the machines for hours on end in the late afternoon and early evening. So, I'm not entirely certain what I am going to do. Friday night is kind of out of the question for now.

Anyway, working on the audio version of The Etymology of Fire has been really time consuming and frustrating. The problem is that I am really stubborn, and I want to record at the rate of an entire scene at a time. I just get into a groove when I'm doing a whole scene. The problem is that the first scene of the first chapter of the book is a good twenty minutes long, and you wouldn't believe the annoying mistakes that can creep into a recording. I mean there is nothing quite like going over everything and discovering that there is a pop or a flub or something. It makes the whole twenty-minute recording rubbish because I don't have sophisticated enough audio equipment to deal with it. I've tried replacing single words, but I can never get the inflection or even the level just right. I then tried replacing entire sentences even going so far as the sentence before and after so that the sentence I actually wanted to replace would have something leading up to it. This never worked. At first, it was just the same problem of trying to match the volume, but I finally found a way around that. This created a different problem. There would be a pop or a click or some godawful noise at the point of the insertion. I even reached the point where I was trying to replace from the last moment of silence to the next, but this had the same horrible pop and click problem.

In the middle of all of this, I decided that twenty-minute recordings were just too much, and I figured that maybe I could do better if I broke it down into ten-minute chunks. I thought this might work. All I had to do was find a natural place in the scene to split the recording; fortunately, the first scene has just such a split into a first and second half. Well, this saved my voice a little bit but still had all the problems listed above. If I made one flub or huffed too hard over the microphone, which was something I could not predict, then the whole session was ruined because I couldn't cancel out the flub. I just don't know enough about this recording jazz. Maybe, if I had a better setup. Maybe, if I knew what I was doing. I mean I am using Goldwave, and it has just got tons and tons of buttons and features that I can't even begin to pretend I understand. I suppose if I understood any of its myriad and complex abilities that I would just have it made in the shade, but I don't.

So, I reached the inescapable conclusion that I had to break the job down into really small chunks. I would do the recording one paragraph at a time if I had to; fortunately, I discovered that I could break the recording into two-minute sessions. Sometimes, this was two paragraphs. Sometimes, this was half a page, depending on the content, of course. This was made possible by the simple test of taking two small sound files and pasting them together. I was worried that there would be a click. I was terrified that there would be a hiss, and I was downright scared that the level balance would never work out. Well, much to my surprise and relief, there is absolutely no volume problem when pasting multiple recordings together.

Okay, that is good. I'll just have to record in two-minute chunks; unfortunately, I don't want to do this, and I have already had a taste of why not. Recording in two-minute chunks breaks the rhythm. It takes my groove and just smashes it on its head. I was actually doing okay, recording two-minute chunks back-to-back. I could manage that. It seemed to help if I spoke the last couple of sentences from the previous chunk over again before beginning the new chunk, creating something of a sense of continuation, but if I recorded a bunch of chunks only to discover that one in the middle had a problem. Well, shit, that was a problem. I had to get back into the rhythm of that chunk, and let me tell you that trying to find that exact groove again is a serious pain in the arse.

So, that is how it is going to be. I'm going to have to record in two-minute bursts, which I will then stick together into scenes, and it is going to be a serious pain to do because of trying to match the tone and rhythm of all these little blurbs together.

Which is actually another thing I've started to worry about. Now, that I actually think I'm going to get somewhere with the recording, I've started to worry about the rhythm and tone. I mean if you've listened to any of the audio recordings of the poems or vignettes then you know how into it I can get. My favorite vignette is still The Leaf Eaters. Oh, man, that one just makes me laugh every time I listen to it. You can just hear the narrator going from slightly crazy to full-on frothing-at-the-mouth psycho over the length of the recording. It's just great. And, you know? It wasn't even planned. I just did it. Did what felt like the thing to do. And, this is what turned-up on the recording. Yeah, it cracks me up every time.

So, anyway, I'm worried that the tone of the recording is too serious. The narrator is just so into the pathos of what he is describing that he sounds like a pompous jackass, and I don't know what to do about it. I figure I could do the whole thing over and make a serious attempt at just reading the text on the page, but it's not really what I want to do. I want the words to take over and find their own expression. I want there to be feeling behind it. Of course, I'm just worried that my sense of the feeling of it is just so overblown that everybody is going to be completely turned-off by it.

So, I'm still debating what to do here. I'm leaning toward leaving it as it is and just going forward. I've been working on this first scene for too long, and I want to get farther into the work. I'm just hoping that the tone will change as things progress. It's not all such gloom and doom as the beginning, and I want to hear what happens. Once I've got some mileage on this thing maybe I'll give it to some friends to hear and let me know how it sounds. Maybe, I'll come back to it after I've gotten some distance and listen with a fresh ear. Maybe, it just needs to sound that brooding. I don't know. I'm worried that I'm too involved with the inherent over seriousness of the whole thing, but I'm going to let it go for now.

Besides, I don't know if I could redo it in a more detached tone. I fear that I'll just get totally into the scene again, and the revised recording will sound more-or-less the same. Oh, well. We shall see what comes.

14 August, 2004

Sorry, no story this week. I did manage to post a message on the forum last night about what is going on with the skunks. I'm not going to repeat that story here. I've got mixed feelings about the forum. On the one hand, it is kind of a cool doodad to play with, posting short little messages whenever I feel like it, replying to whatever non-sense Greg has posted this week. Yeah, it is kind-of cool. On the other hand, nobody else is even bothering to look at the forum much less post messages to it. At least as far as I can tell, nobody else is even bothering to look. I shouldn't be surprised. I was really kind-of expecting it, and it was sort-of another reason why I was in absolutely no damn hurry to set-up a forum. I mean why should people care or be interested? There are enough forums and blogs and whatnot. Why do they need one more? That is probably part of the reason I have taken to it as a place to post random thoughts and stuff that I don't really have time to build a journal entry around. I've just got that mad desire to do something with it. Of course, it probably doesn't help that I've been so vocally against the idea of a forum. Why would anybody want to join something where the moderator is pooh-poohing the whole concept, right? Actually, I'm not really against the idea of a forum. I've just got a problem with what can go wrong with them. People being all snide. Hey, I was here first. Anyway, it would be cool if people posted and said hi.

I got an email recently pointing out a spelling error in String Finger Theatre. I thought about teasing the person and telling them that they should have posted the message in the forum. This would give all and sundry the chance to tease me about the mistake. Oh, well, I thought it would have been rude to push the forum upon somebody like that so I kept my trap shut about how they should have let me know about the spelling mistake. Getting an email was kind-of cool anyway so why should they be forced to use the forum, right?

There is progress on The Etymology of Fire. It is slow progress, and it is hand-written so I I don't have a word count on the new material. I can almost see the end. No, really, it happened about two weeks ago. I realized just how close I was. I even sketched out in a kind of four-sentence outline what else is going to happen just to prove it to myself. I mean I've tricked myself before. I thought I was almost done about a chapter and a half ago, but it turned out that there was a bucket full of stuff still left to go. Well, this time I'm really thinking it is close. I'm telling myself this in the hopes that I'll actually get motivated to hit the end.

The writing is going really slow so I deliberately haven't been working on String Finger Theatre just so I won't feel like I'm being distracted. If anybody has been watching the archive page, they would see that the number of little boxes representing the number of comics in the current storyline has not increased in several weeks. This would be because of desperately trying to reach the end of The Etymology of Fire.

I'm thinking there isn't going to be as much denouncement in The Etymology of Fire as there was in The Magic Flute. I'm thinking this way for equal parts of simply wanting to get to the end and also for feeling that the story really doesn't need a prolonged finish. If I do what I'm thinking, the whole thing is going to wrap-up with a serious of vignettes. Okay, maybe they won't be short, but that is what I am telling myself so that I can imagine the concept of getting through them. I swear that every time I feel like things are about to wrap-up I discover that I have all this stuff left to go. Well, I'm really hoping this time. We shall see.

Of course, this leads to the question of then what. My plan for now is to figure if I can make the audio book idea work. I've more or less got the first scene recorded, and I just need a good opportunity to start recording the second. The only thing I'm worried about is that this whole thing is working out to about a megabyte per minute, and I'm really not sure that I've got enough space with my web host to cover the whole recording. I'll either have to upgrade my account or simply place only part online. If anybody is interested in the rest, which I doubt, then they'll just have to contact me about getting a copy in the mail.

I'm also a little undecided about what I want to hit for my next project. On the one hand, I really want to get back to work on The Faire Folk of Gideon. On the other, I really want to try and get some music done, and I'm really of the feeling that I won't be able to do both. So, I haven't decided what I'm going to do there. It may be time to take a break from fiction and concentrate on music. It may not. I mean it is true that the first volume of The Faire Folk of Gideon does come to a nice little conclusion. It is far more conclusive than I had ever thought it would be. I mean, sure, there is all kinds of stuff still left unfinished, but the story could be left there for a very long time. We will simply have to see how I am feeling and what I decide to do.

It would be really nice to get some music written and uplifted to the website. Yeah, that would be nice.

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