Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Slapping around an old man. And does Marlon Brando have anything to do with this? (dream)

Picture from Morguefile.com

DREAM

I'm in a house with several other people, and I am tired. I am ready to go to bed. I go to the bunk bed perched on top of a loft. The sunshine hits it at a warm, pleasing angle.

I'm about to get into the lower bunk, but a shirtless old man comes up to me before I get in. He keeps poking me and pushing me and prodding me and talking at me. I don't know what to do. He keeps going, and going, and going till I slap him.

He doesn't slow down much. He's quieter though. So I go to the upper bunk in the hope that I've escaped him.

He starts poking the bottom of the mattress with a long stick! I avoid his jabs, but after a while, he starts jumping up and grabbing at me from the sides of the bed. I get down out of the bed, fuming, and I slap him once- twice- a third time. I shove him. He comes back for more and I slap him again. We wrap our arms around each other and start fighting in earnest. Finally, I push him away and he stays away.

I go back up the ladder to bed.

INTERPRETATION

I've never seen that old man before in real life. He's stubborn, foolish, and I can't stand him. I don't know what he could represent other than the old year, or a fear of getting old (something I have mixed... overall positive feelings about, but some anxious feelings, too), or some kind of anger I have towards an elderly person or persons.

I tend to favor the fear of getting old interpretation. I'm trying to get my "beauty" sleep, and old age is fighting against accomplishing this. This is a societal norm that annoys me, though it's already been deeply buried in my psyche. There's nothing inherently less attractive about being older, in my conscious opinion. But I'm reading a book written by a middle aged woman who aggressively throws every stereotype about ageing in there. It annoys me.

I fell asleep to a podcast about Marlon Brando, so I don't know how that would factor into this dream. We are fighting, and when I think of Marlon Brando, I think of the violence in A Streetcar Named Desire. 

It's also odd that I'm working at night and sleeping during the day. Lately, I have been doing my writing in the late afternoon or at night just before bed instead of during the day.

I don't have a lot of insights about this one. Lately, I've been having the kind of dreams that make you wake up with your heart pounding in your chest. Perhaps my life has become so bland that the only excitement I get is in these sort of fighting/arguing dreams.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Merry Christmas! Lost Atlantis 2: available for download for FREE on the 24th, 25th & 26th!

Merry Christmas, everybody! After years of sitting on this project, I have uploaded the sequel to Lost Atlantis: Splitting Sand to Amazon for Kindle, and it is now available for $2.99. However, it will be free to download on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after Christmas.


I know not everyone is a fan of this series, which has ended up being simultaneously my most popular and least popular artistic endeavor, but if you are curious, or liked the style of the first book, please give this one a read!

Thank you so much for supporting me by reading my writing! I hope you have a wonderful holiday season full of giving, gifts, and the joys of Christmas and the New Year!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Everyone else finds their marbles, but mine are still scattered. (dream)



Image from Morguefile.com


DREAM

Something is clamoring inside a dumpster in an alley. I go to see what's in there. A small crowd of young adults gathers around. These loose acquaintances and I lower a steel I-beam into a dumpster in order to let a baby gorilla out. It's dressed in pink baby clothes: pink polka-dotted diapers, a pink polka-dotted bonnet, and a pink, plastic pacifier. It's tiny for a gorilla. It comes out on its knuckles.

We all get to chatting and I sort of find myself particularly interested in chatting with one young man.

We go inside where he's managing an event in an adjoining, teal-painted room. I don't know what the rules of the upcoming event are. He tries to explain them, but I don't understand. Suddenly, there's an explosion of young adults in the room. They all pick up the marbles which are hidden in, under and around different objects in the room. As suddenly as they all came in, they all leave. The room is a shambles. They took a lot of marbles, but they also left behind tons of marbles.

I lift a vase with a red poppy in it to look at three or four marbles underneath. My new friend starts to do paperwork to prepare to clean up.

What were all those people aiming for? It seems that they chose all kinds of different marbles, not in any particular pattern or color or quantity, but just whatever suited them. I wonder if I should take some myself. I plan to.

INTERPRETATION

I'm not sure what the gorilla in a baby suit could be other than some "brutal" ideals I had about the limited possibilities in life that I've started to throw away. It's not a worthless ideal, brutal pragmatism. People like it; they rescue it. But I also let it go in the dream.

There isn't just one direction for me to go in. The gorilla (the ideal) is dressed in baby clothes. It's "immature" now. And it was never particularly happy, since it was clamoring inside of a dumpster.

The explosion of people in the room symbolize all the different choices people have in life. You can pick up or put down nearly any color, quantity or size you're interested in. I, personally, haven't picked any in the dream. I have no sense of what the rules of the game are or what I want for myself. I feel this way right now. I'm starting to feel both the press of all the choices I have and the ways that I can always change again. I can choose in the same time-frame other people do. I can consult a friend. Or I can choose quietly on my own. I did not choose with my generation, in the dream. That's how I feel now, like I'm choosing much, much later than my peers. I've even found out that one of my professors is younger than me. (So this is what despair feels like... hmmm. Interesting.) But I'm not desperate in the dream or in real life. I am free to choose what marbles I want to take without significant pressure being placed on me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"Actors and the Art of Performance: Under Exposure" (book review)


Available for free on Kindle 


Title: "Actors and the Art of Performance: Under Exposure (Performance Philosophy)" 
Author: Susanne Valerie
Genre: Nonfiction (philosophy)
Length:  120 pages
Naja's MPAA rating: (G)
Publishing Date: May 12, 2016

I found this book on a website called Performance Philosophy. The book isn't exactly an indie, but it's never been reviewed, so I thought I'd give it a go. At the point I downloaded the book, it had been downloaded over 9,000 times already from Performance Philosophy alone.

The author is a professor from Austria. The book is translated from German and was funded by the Austrian Science Fund. It is short, spanning only 120 pages.

As we open the file, almost immediately, we are struck by a tone as melodramatic as any of Stanislavski's books. I couldn't help but feel that acting was romanticized much too much for reasons that didn't resonate since they could easily apply to other occupations. (Essentially, most of the reasons given for why one would want to become an actor were to be a nonconformist and to change the world, the latter of which is probably something politicians, lawyers, inventors, doctors, therapists, teachers and lots of other professionals have the tools to do more effectively.) But I was also deeply impressed by lines like these about why someone might want to act:

Openness without ideologies or theologies, openness as possibility- as the vacant space within us, kept open not out of destructiveness, but as a form of affirmation... to remain true to that which disconcerts, to not become jaded... No getting all worked up about what you always knew. (p. 2-3)

I feel that there's a lot acting has to teach us, especially in an age of such little understanding between people. But I guess there's that same old problem I've always had with theatre: mixing opinions which I think are problematic with gold that cannot be mined in other fields.

I can see why the description of this book states that it's autobiographical, but I felt that it was a little too objective to be described as autobiography. When I think of an autobiography, I think of something much more soft and impressionistic with respect to the author's personal experiences. I felt that this description given on the Performance Philosophy website might be holding back this book a little, which is a shame because it's well worth the read. It's written almost poetically at times, but definitely by an acting coach, not someone recounting their earliest days in theatre. And there are also a lot of excellent insights into the interpretation of text, huge numbers of very shrewdly thought-out reasons why a text may not be performed at its best, and long, diaphanous and beautiful passages about the art of acting:

Texts are expected to be short and somehow cool, easygoing. Close to daily life. As distanced as possible... by no means complex or complicated and certainly not melodramatic, whatever that might mean. (p. 8)

Ah ha! So she claims not to understand what melodrama may mean! Perhaps there is so much melodrama in theatre, it's like one of those things that flows like water around fish. Soon, it's not as noticeable, or is assumed even in animals other than fish. She's right though: people tend to dislike melodrama, whatever that is. I would argue that I don't know either. I know what the online dictionary says after I do a Google search: a sensational dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events intended to appeal to the emotions. But that definition is very subjective. Who is to say what an exaggerated character is? And aren't all dramatic pieces intended to appeal to the emotions?

The book is minimally philosophical, but there is an interesting chapter about the traditional animosity between thinking and theatre. (Please see Sanford Meisner's book about acting, for example.)

In summation, I would say this is a great read that covers all the essentials of acting: body, voice, thought, rationality vs. creativity, text interpretation, repetition, really listening to others and shedding "pretenses and prejudices their past has conditioned them to carry" (p. 86), and to become "transparency personified" (p. 92). Although it might be a too much for those without at least a mild to moderate in interest in acting, it delivers a sense of the difficult emotional work it takes to become an excellent actor along with some advice for how one can improve one's acting that I, for one, haven't read elsewhere.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Screaming at a neighbor. (dream)

DREAM

I'm standing inside the house I grew up in. I'm livid with my parents. I see a neighbor across the way. I start ranting and raving and swearing at him. I've never seen him before, but I'm so angry. He just happens to be there when I need a target. I say everything I can to make him hurt, but of course I know that's ineffective since I don't know him, but I'm not thinking. All I have at the moment is just enough intellectual awareness to injure someone. That's enough. That's all I need. That is my only purpose at that moment.

Later that week, I go to a neighborhood potluck. That guy is there. My mood has mellowed out though.

"You're that girl who lives across the street!" he says.

I didn't think he saw me. I don't respond. What's his point?

"You're that girl though."

He can't seem to wrap his head around it. And he's planning something.

INTERPRETATION

The man I was jeering at is a cook I knew years and years ago who would constantly harass me about the way I would fill in orders in. I never ranted or raved at him, but maybe I wanted to rant and rave at him! It's not like I've never ranted and raved before. But it's... actually pretty rare, despite the levels of stress I tend to experience. I generally won't even defend myself. Someone attacking me is generally not worth the effort it would take to try to get them to change their mind. I have a friend who said that one day, all the "fuck you's" left him. The "fuck you's" will never leave me, but I don't feel or express them often. I'll overreact to stress, and there are stressful periods of my life, but I am generally not out to get anyone like in this dream, even when they're attacking me. I have also been on the receiving end of ranting, raving attacks from strangers that seemed to happen spontaneously out of someone else's rage. One in particular from a couple of years ago has haunted and angered me, recently. The dream might partially be asking me to empathize with that girl.

In a project I'm working on, I use a lot of people from that bar. I had forgotten about the cook. But the dream is doing more than simply reminding me of something I want to put in a book. It's asking me to reflect on times I've been people I can't necessarily be proud of, which has been a lot more often than I would like.

But most notably in the dream, I do not take responsibility for the way I have made someone else feel. Although I am clearly the wrong-doer in the dream, there's a hint of my general, "Why would I waste time with someone accusing me of something stupid" attitude. In reality, if I believe there are moments or ways in which I'm wrong, I'll try desperately to own up to every moment I can, whether I say so or not. It's the only way not to repeat the mistakes of the past since you have so much more control over your life than anyone else. In real life though, it's usually quite a challenge to correctly decide who should accept responsibility for what. A lot of random people were frequently quite abusive towards me a few years back, or so I perceived. But now that I've moved, it's so peaceful. Maybe it's age or something else, but I feel as though I've mellowed and am only reminiscing about worse times.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Swimming in the dark. (dream)

DREAM

I'm in a warehouse by myself. The floors are concrete. I'm barefoot. There's glass on the floor, but I can push myself off and float above it. The walls and corridors recede so far back, they look like black holes. A guppy swims up to my foot. I avoid sinking back down to the ground. The tiny fish is amazing and I don't want to crush it. An entire school of guppies comes swimming down from the open air overhead. Their flowing, leopard-printed tails are orange and yellow. It's not sunny, but daylight pours over a huge table full of tomato plant seedlings.

I flow further down the warehouse and admire the new plants the vendors have put on display. There's plenty of jewelry for sale, too. Jewelry and the occasional item of clothing seem to be the only things keeping the place from being a greenhouse.

My biological parents come around the corner. I feel separate from them, but dependent. That's it- I feel like a child. But I have the experiences and actual age of an adult. I just accept it.

They preoccupy each other. My mom rests her arm in my father's. They duck into the vendors' small stands now and then.

I've been wandering around over concrete and dirt flooring alike. I see a beautiful piece of faux moonstone jewelry on the ground. No one seems to be claiming it. I pick it up and put it in my pocket.

We go home. Soon, the police are knocking at our door. I wonder if they're here for the jewelry I took from the warehouse. I go upstairs and wait. But they never go upstairs or ask to see me. They eventually drive away.

I go back downstairs and go back to the warehouse. I stand in line, waiting, when a man comes up behind me and slits my throat with a small switchblade. He might be why the police came to our door. They might have been trying to warn us. I choke, bleed out and die on the dirt floor, but I'm glad to go, even if it's violent and unexpected. I was ready. There wasn't much left that I wanted to see or do.

INTERPRETATION

I've been swimming at night in an outdoor pool for the past several weeks. I lose my concentration and determination after a certain hour, so at night, I figure I might as well do something that doesn't require much of either from me. I'll look down and halfway see my legs kicking at the water in the dark, and it will seem like flying.

The sky starts out as cloudy daylight, then within the span of a few minutes, goes from navy blue to pitch black. The stars become crisp, white points. When it's that dark, something swoops down into the water, splashes in and then flies away. For months, I didn't know what it was. I had assumed it was moths or dragonflies, but tonight, I saw that it's tiny, brown birds.

The pool is surrounded by houses, but only one bedroom light is on every single night at that time. I always wonder if anyone is in there, and if someone is, whether they notice me splashing around. What might they think of me? I try to peek inside as I shower outside, the three lights attached to the roof of the shower forming a rainbow halo on the concrete around me while the hot water runs down my head into the drain.

I wonder about the slit throat in the dream. I think it goes back to a conversation I had with a friend who was just diagnosed with inoperable cancer. I really want him to want to fight to live. We had a fairly lengthy conversation about life and giving up or not giving up. He felt that life was a gift, in spite of everything else. I'm relieved to hear that he feels this way. I know it's not the only way to feel about life and death.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The book of romantic Severus Snape fanfiction. (dream)


DREAM

I wake up. I'm in the lower part of my orange-painted, orange-blanketed, metal bunk bed. Someone close to me, but still an acquaintance, is at the computer to my left. I'm in the Harry Potter universe, although I don't acknowledge it as such. The wizarding world is simply reality. But Harry Potter and Harry Potter's books do still exist.

Right now, I'm thinking about Professor Snape and the romantic short stories I'm writing about him. They're almost done. I even have some black and white illustrations done in the style of the original books. Will my stories ever be published? Will I ever meet Professor Snape? Wouldn't that be amazing? He might be downstairs in the lower computer room. But first, I have to get out of bed- no easy task.

I do it, then I turn the corner to our heavy, wooden entertainment center. I look inside and I'm bummed. I see some activity that's related to some non-famous wizards I'll have to meet and write about before I get to Snape. They don't see him as a great tragic, romantic figure. They see him as sort of a weird side character. I play with these people for a while anyway. Figures act on the screen inside the entertainment center. I wonder if I'll ever be able to go look for the star of my fiction.

INTERPRETATION

My favorite Harry Potter character is, without a doubt, Severus Snape. His story arc turned him into one of the great tragic/romantic characters of the 21st century. But the character's dialogue was written completely differently in the film version, and although the books are overall a richer experience than the films, I much prefer the film version of Snape.

There are many differences between the film version of Snape, and the book version. For example, in the book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, under the Whomping Willow, Snape is rendered unconscious and carried along very roughly by some vines back to Hogwarts, bumping his head against the ceiling all the while in a pantomime of a child's righteous vengeance against a big, mean adult in authority. But in the film, Snape wakes up after being rendered unconscious and attempts to shield the children from Lupin after Lupin transforms into a werewolf. That's a much nobler act, and it makes more sense. The film Snape is impulsively angry at Harry for reminding him so much of his romantic rival, James Potter, but we eventually come to know that he's secretly devoted to Harry's protection. So when the stakes are at their highest (life and death), we see what he really values in the film version.

Also in that movie, Snape's dialogue is toned down quite a bit. Fewer words are spoken, and the almost cartoonish vitriol in the book is erased and replaced with a more jaunty, delightfully sarcastic dialogue. Here's an example of some dialogue from the books that was cut:

(Harry) "YOU'RE PATHETIC!... JUST BECAUSE THEY MADE A FOOL OF YOU AT SCHOOL YOU WON'T EVEN LISTEN-"

(Snape) "SILENCE! I WILL NOT BE SPOKEN TO LIKE THAT!... Like father, like son, Potter! I have just saved your neck; you should be thanking me on bended knee! You would have been well served if he'd killed you! You'd have died like your father, too arrogant to believe you might be mistaken in Black- now get out of the way, or I will make you."

In the film, Snape isn't nearly as defensive or resentful. The film also cut out much of Snape's single-minded desire to get Sirus's soul sucked out in that particular book. For the most part, in the film, he's simply clever, focused and disciplined, and wants Potter to be prepared for what he knows is coming. But in the books, he is also verbally or emotionally abusing these children. He's one-dimensional. All his other dimensions come out in one giant (amazing) heap at the end.

We don't get to read about Snape's thoughts, so we're not missing much in going from the page to the screen. In the films, he still doesn't listen to the kids (or perhaps he listens, but doesn't necessarily trust, since he did know what Harry was talking about when Harry was being interrogated by Umbridge under the threat of a truth-telling potion, and Snape successfully put off Umbridge while alerting the Order of the Phoenix about the danger in the vault of fortunes Harry was secretly warning him about in the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), but he negates what they're thinking and does nearly everything else in a comedic way (the way he hits the kids' heads with books for talking, his reaction to having his shoes vomited on in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the way he tells Umbridge that he applied to the Defense Against the Dark Arts position and obviously didn't get the job in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), and he tends to be too calm and reserved to be sadistic, except in short outbursts against Harry's father, who bullied him in school. He doesn't go on cruel, self-adulating rants the way the he does in the books. We almost get more information about him in the films at times. The soft, silky, cadence of Alan Rickman's Snape isn't in the books the way we get clues as to what Hagrid, Ron, or Hermione sound like.

The film also put some spine-tingling last words in Severus's mouth compared to the book: "You have your mother's eyes." When he says that, it feels as though all the other characters spent the entire series saying it just so we can hear it one last time from Snape. It's more poetic, although perhaps less realistic than Snape's final words in the book: "Look... at... me..." (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, p. 658)

There's a lot I could say about Snape. I love that character. I aspire to make characters that complex and nuanced. And I thought about making fanfiction after having this dream, but there are no incentives to do so. I did read some fanfiction, and it's interesting how all the stories I looked at revolved around how dedicated a friend or lover he is, how sensitive but guarded he is, and how relentless the hostility of the world outside of that relationship is.

Rather than encouraging me to write either fanfiction or romance, I think this dream is more about how I wish I could churn out massive quantities of polished work. I don't do that much work as a writer, and I wonder if I will ever be able to publish anything I think is worthwhile. In the dream, I am distracted by other obligations and entertainment on a screen. That's certainly me these days, and I do have a difficult time getting out of bed and motivating myself to do anything, like in the dream.