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Monthly Archives: April 2013

The AFI Top 100 Films: To Kill A Mockingbird (#34)

Entertainment 150To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Starring Gregory Peck, Mary Badham and Phillip Alford
Written by Horton Foote (screenplay) and Harper Lee (novel)
Directed by Robert Mulligan

One of the great things about setting out to watch all 100 of the AFI’s greatest American films of all time is it gives me an excellent chance to fill unforgivable gaps in my cinematic education. I had never seen To Kill A Mockingbird until last week, and given the fact that I’m a black guy who’s also a sucker for noble, pure-hearted people in stories, you’d figure it would be right up my alley. Somehow I’ve missed it until now, and I’m actually glad of that. I got to see it when I’m old enough to truly appreciate it and mull the themes that it plays with.

On the surface, To Kill a Mockingbird looks like one of those kid’s movies that’s really a string of scenes with a big moral that loosely connects them. Scout (Badham) and Jem (Alford) Finch play together in a very small town, while their father Atticus (Peck) tries to raise them on his own and hold down a job as a lawyer. The children learn quite a bit about how to behave compassionately towards your fellow man from their father, as well as what happens when that quality is absent on both a personal and societal level. What makes this film work is that it uses these universal, grand themes and reduces them to the smallest possible interpersonal level, so nothing feels showy or preachy; the arguments are presented in an understated manner that makes them all the more powerful.

Peck is pitch-perfect in the role of Atticus, but then everyone already knew that. He inhabits the character with such natural, easy morality that you never question him. Even though he always does the right thing and always knows the right thing to say to get his point across, he doesn’t feel wooden, or boring, or fake. He always comes across as a human being with an unfailing moral compass; even when it’s not easy, even when it hurts him, he has this compulsion to do the right thing.

No, seriously, Gregory Peck acts his ass off in this scene.

Acting, bitches.

This relatability is key, not only to us buying him in the movie but to us buying his relationship with his children and the effect he has on them. If Peck came across as too much Superman and not enough Clark Kent, he would have looked like an abstraction more than a man, an ideal of good and lawfulness given flesh. But because he’s just some guy whose morality leads him to do extraordinary things, he inspires the belief that everyone has that capacity, that we could all be that good if we tried hard enough. Scout and Jem don’t always manage it — they can be casually cruel in the way that children are — but they rise up to their potential when it counts.

There are two big instances where it does count. First, the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. Most people in town consider this an open-and-shut case; it’s a black man’s word against the word of a white family, and even if everyone knows the father’s a drunk there’s really no issue here. Atticus is called to defend the man, and he does it to the best of his ability even in the face of such huge societal opposition.

The trial scene is simply gorgeous. Atticus takes apart the prosecutor’s case piece by piece, and builds the searing testimony of Robinson in its place. With patience and clarity he forces everyone in the courtroom to look at the truth behind the lie and face their own prejudices, the way they’ve reduced a man to a thing. It’s a breathtaking thing to watch; he’s not too showy, he doesn’t come across as too righteous, he never once over-reaches in his pursuit to get the accuser to tell the truth. The trial’s result, and the way Atticus is regarded as he leaves the courtroom, leaves an indelible mark.

Scout takes the lesson learned from this and applies it to Boo Radley, the neighborhood bogeyman. I won’t go into too much detail about that, just in case you’re reading this and you’re one of twelve people who haven’t seen this movie yet — but suffice to say, the movie’s disparate plot threads come together in a surprising yet satisfying way.

There are a lot of other small details about Southern life that feel so, so right. The shape of the houses remind me a lot of home (even though home is Baltimore City), and the Finch’s maid reminds me a lot of my own mother. I remember running around the neighborhood at night with friends, telling stories about what might be lurking in abandoned houses or what recluses do when no one’s watching. These things ground the action quite well, and establish a deceptively care-free world for the children to run through. So when they stray into the world of adults, everything’s given a weight that fits.

Of course I recommend this movie. Atticus Finch is one of the greatest heroes ever committed to celluloid, and as the heart of the movie he elevates every scene he’s in. While he represents the qualities that are best in us, he never puts them out of our reach. We can all be Atticus if we made the decision to do the right thing, every time. That series of choices, laid out before us, is what determines the quality of the lives we lead, and the quality of the lives around us. We can elevate the people we touch in the same manner, without being a pain in the ass about it.

Rating: 9/10.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in AFI Top 100, Movies, Reviews

 

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The AFI Top 100 Films: It Happened One Night (#35)

Entertainment 150It Happened One Night (1934)
Starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert
Written by Robert Riskin (screenplay) and Samuel Hopkins Adams (short story)
Directed by Frank Capra

One of the most interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits I’ve discovered about It Happened One Night is just how much its lead actors hated working on the film. Its distributor, Columbia Pictures, was one of several studios on what was called “Poverty Row”. Other studios would send difficult actors to one of these lots as a ‘humbling experience,’ so they would learn to appreciate what they had. Clark Gable was sent there after a number of other actors had passed on the script, and Claudette Colbert only took the job when director Frank Capra told her he would double her salary and she would be done in four weeks. (At least, that’s the story according to IMDB.) Colbert was particularly unhappy the entire time, and didn’t think much of the final cut of the film.

Neither did critics or audiences, at first. It Happened One Night debuted to weak box office and indifferent reviews, and it looked like it would be another flop for Columbia. Then, something strange happened. It landed in second-rate theatres, and actually did better there. Word of mouth snowballed, more and more people saw it, and it actually turned into Columbia’s biggest hit at the time. This delayed wave of regard carried the film all the way to the Oscars, where it became the first of only three movies in history to win the “big five” awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Original or Adapted Screenplay).

Actually, this might be how they got to the Oscars.

“Will pay gas for ride to better movie.”

Not bad for a movie that almost everyone involved with hated. What’s impressive is you wouldn’t know it by just watching the film — it looks like everyone involved is having a blast. Either Gable and Colbert are consummate professionals or their chemistry is just that good. I’d like to think the latter.

Colbert is Ellie Andrews, the socialite daughter of a very rich man. Her father doesn’t approve of her gunshot marriage to wealthy aviator King Westley (no kidding, that’s his actual name — he’s not royalty) and basically abducts her to his yacht. She escapes, and in order to avoid notice rides a Greyhound bus back to New York where she hopes to meet her new husband. There, she meets a reporter who just happened to quit his job moments ago, Peter Warne (Gable).

Peter offers to help Ellie evade capture if he gets exclusive rights to the story; if she refuses, he’ll blow the whistle and send her back into the loving, tight embrace of dear old dad. That’s the only set up you need before it’s off to the races. Gable and Colbert trade jabs with impeccable timing, and together they make one of the best screen couples I’ve ever seen, hands down. When you see two people who can’t stand each other slowly come together over the course of the film, you can bet they’re building on the template these guys formed.

Gable is as awesome as ever as a cad and conniver; he’s always in control, always has an idea for any situation. Peter gets Ellie out of as many scrapes as he gets her into, but she’s quite game to go along with it. In fact, she often takes his ideas and improves upon them in surprising ways — Ellie may be inexperienced, but she’s tremendously quick-witted. It’s great to see this sheltered socialite come into her own the way she does; not only does she rise to the occasion, she loves doing it.

It Happened One Night is remembered quite fondly because it treats its romantic leads equally; Peter has his foibles and vulnerabilities just as much as Ellie. She picks at them, too, just as pointedly as he does. She gives as good as she gets, even though she’s not afraid to be vulnerable, or petty, or hurt. What makes me so fond of Ellie is that she’s such a fully-realized character. She’s helpless not because she’s a woman, or of low intellect, but simply because she’s never had the chance to help herself. And through the course of the trip you see her rely on her wits, charm and intelligence just as much as Peter.

It kind of blows me away to realize just how influential this movie was; a lot of the mannerisms for Bugs Bunny was based on things that happened in the film, and apparently sales of undershirts plummeted because of one scene of Clark Gable undressing. Beyond the legends about that, you just see this movie embedded in the DNA of every quippy romantic comedy that’s come out since, and even though they try to capture the interplay of Gable and Colbert, they can’t quite catch lightning in a bottle for a second time.

Another great thing about this film is the variety of people they meet in their travels. I’ve taken the Greyhound bus across the country before, and it turned out to be a lot less fun than what was depicted. I swore I’d never get on a bus again to travel long distances after that trip, but this movie made me seriously reconsider that. There’s a love of people that suffuses itself through the energy of the film; even though its leads have many bad qualities, you never once think of them as bad people. That attitude carries on right down the line, from annoying fellow passenger Oscar Shapely to severe helicopter father Mr. Andrews. I’m sure much of that comes from Capra, who somehow makes his affection for Americana earnestly without coming over too corny about it.

This is a grand romantic comedy that’s about more than two people finding each other and falling in love. It’s about how discovering the world outside yourself makes you a more complete person; both Ellie and Peter are trapped in different myopic world views, and it’s only when they open up to one another that they learn how to get out of their own way. Alone they’re reasonably intelligent, headstrong people who can’t quite catch a break. Together, they’re an unstoppable bickering force. The world — and the audience — is in the palm of their hands.

Rating: 9/10.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in AFI Top 100, Movies, Reviews

 

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Friday Fiction: A Primer of Oak’s Home

Gaming 150I run a home-grown Pathfinder game about twice a month that I’ve been having quite a bit of fun with. Through 18 games, I’ve taken my players up to level 7 (about a third of the way through their progression) and get this — they’re still with me. I’ve had pretty bad luck before with running games, and a lot of those wounds were self-inflicted. Still, it feels great to be running a game that people are into, and that I’m managing fairly well.

The players are all villagers in a small woodland community called Oak’s Home. Recently, there’s been quite a few changes to the village and their characters have stepped up to navigate their home through some difficult times. With one immediate threat put to bed and the world expanding to reveal others lurking in the shadows, I thought it would be a good thing for my players to see how their village looks to the outside world.

So I wrote this, an entry in a fictional travel guide. I rather like the way it came out, but I’m curious to see if it makes sense to anyone who hasn’t been playing in the game.

OAK’S HOME PRIMER

OVERVIEW
Oak’s Home is a small village comprised of some 500 souls. It is located deep within the Lunsym Forest 75 miles west of the capital of Splendor, and 50 miles east of the western coast of the kingdom. It developed at the intersection of the Lunsym Road, which runs east-west from the port town of Break Cove to the capital; and the Aileunid Trail, which runs north-southeast from a few half-elven settlements near the Barbarian Lands to the jungles of Drakkar, the kingdom to the South.

The village used to be a major stop along the trade routes, with merchants traveling between Splendor and Break Cove with supplies and exotics from the western lands beyond the sea, or the jungle tribes of Drakkar. However, its prominence in the kingdom has diminished as the world has gotten smaller. Over a century ago the Lunsym Sea changed, and no one has managed to successfully navigate its waters without disappearing or going mad. Some fifty years after that, the port towns fell to madness and supernatural forces, and fifty years ago the forests surrounding Oak’s Home and other towns became enchanted. Trade has been increasingly dangerous, and that has degraded the standing of both the village and the kingdom at large.

These days, Oak’s Home is known mostly for its natural resources and the trades that have sprung up around them. The hills that curve around the town to the northwest are rich in ores, woods and natural magical materials that are hard to find elsewhere. As such, the village supports businesses that typical places of its size doesn’t, such as a magic shop, blacksmith, mason, tailor and pastry chef.

Most of the village’s farming land is situated to the north of the city, where the soil is believed to be more arable and less prone to magical influence. Wheat, potatoes and other root vegetables, apples, peaches and corn are all grown for sale within the town and the nearby baron’s keep. This is supplemented by livestock (mostly sheep and chickens, with a few goats and cows), wild boar, venison, quail and wild berries that can be found in the forests. Mushrooms, truffles, spices and herbs can also be found with patience and luck.

The population of Oak’s Home is mostly human, though there is a significant minority of gnomes and halflings in town. Dwarves are practically non-existent, though ancient passageways beneath the village suggest that they once had a very large presence here. There are a small number of elves and half-elves in its borders. Despite the ever-present threat of magical animals and supernatural creatures in the forests, Oak’s Home is usually not threatened by any organized group.

Recently it was discovered that two cults had been organized within Oak’s Home in secret — the druid-like Group of the Agathion and the sinister Servants of Sslinosh. The Agathion Group has been declared a heathen group by the dominant religion of the kingdom, the Church of the Holy Trinity. Even still, the town enjoys a cool, if friendly, relationship with them. They partol the town’s walls and forests, identifying and neutralizing threats before they can harm the population. The Servants of Sslinosh have been driven out or killed for attempting to cause chaos and mass murder.

The Servants of Sslinosh are believed to be the cause of a phenomenon known now as the Flash, a supernatural event that caused roughly ten percent of the villagers to be changed into supernatural creatures. These people — called the Changed — have been accepted as part of the village, and there is an ongoing effort to re-integrate them into society. Homes and parts of town are being reshaped to tend to their needs, though this transition has been far from easy. Elementals, beast-men and deathless make up the bulk of the Changed, though there are a few more exotic creatures amongst their number. The Changed are a subject of great curiosity in arcane circles; it’s long been thought that creatures of a certain type couldn’t help but be evil, and this appears to be a refutation of that.

In addition to renewed interest by the arcane and holy communities, increased attention has been given to Oak’s Home because of its unique and seemingly plentiful natural resources, and the crafts-people that have been working with them for generations. A recent immigrant to the community, Allanaea Audalis, has spearheaded a campaign to get the unique works of Oak’s Home craftsmen noticed by the kingdom’s elite. It appears to be having some effect, and the small forest village looks poised to rise back towards its former prominence at last.

 

AT A GLANCE
Official Name: The Barony of Oak’s Home and Surrounding Lands
Population: 520 souls (55% human; 18% gnome; 12% halfling; 9% “Changed”; 5% elf or half-elf; 1% other (orc, half-orc, dragon)
Land Area: 7 sq. miles (including the road leading to the Baron’s Keep as well as the Baron’s Keep itself)
Date of Establishment: June 1st, 1854 M.E. (Modern Era); 498 years old, roughly

Ruling Noble: Baron Foalooke Aileuneid, by grace of Count Jamesmuth McGee the Sixth, under Duke Edward Willingson, by command of King Lensith the Great.

Primary Businesses: Farming, Mining, Trapping, Crafts
IMPORTANT PEOPLE
Baron Foalooke Aileuneid (dragon)
Baron Aileuneid is the owner of Oak’s Home and the surrounding forests; he was given the land by King Shaesbon the II some sixty years ago. The Baron is a just and popular ruler who seems to be more laissez-faire than most nobles in his position; perhaps this is why the villagers hold him in such high regard. Taxes are reasonable, he sends his personal guard out in defense of the town when he sees there’s a clear need, and he visits the village twice a year — during its birthday in the summer, and again during the Winter Festival near the close of the year. Through the duration of his reign, it was believed that Baron Aileuneid was an elf; however, he has chosen to reveal himself as a dragon three months after the Flash.

Regent/Assistant Carwen Elms (human)
Sir Elms is the regent of Oak’s Home when the Baron is away on official business; otherwise, he serves as his chief advisor and head of staff. He is an older gentleman with a serious demeanor, his wispy white hair and furrowed brow making him look perpetually harried and unhappy. However, he is devoted to his work and serves the Baron without question. It is known that he wears a Prisoner’s Ring connected to a Jailer’s Ring worn by the Baron — far from the relationship this implies, it actually signifies a bond of great trust and care from both parties.

Recently Sir Elms has established residence within Oak’s Home, making sure the Baron maintains a closer presence within the village in the wake of cultish activity. He has been replaced as the Chief of Staff of the baronial keep.

Sheriff Anthony Hardin (Changed)
Sir Hardin has held the post of sheriff for almost a decade, and for most of that time he’s had to deal with little more than busting up a tavern brawl or determining the particulars of a dispute over cattle. The last several months have been excessively exciting.

He lost all of his deputies to cult activity, and both he and the people he conscripted into replacing them were changed in the Flash. Instead of a reasonably fit middle-aged man, the Sheriff is now a twelve-foot-tall, four-armed monster with goat’s legs, huge curved horns and solid black eyes. Despite his fearsome appearance, he remains the same man he always was; business-like, forever wary, straightforward and stoic. He prefers peace and quiet, and likes to see things in order. Of course, he’s not above using his new magical nature to encourage rowdy townsfolk to make sure things are as quiet as he likes them.

Father Philo Greeves (human)
Father Greeves is the newest addition to the town; he has filled in as priest for the village since Father Seabring has been called to the Church’s headquarters in Splendor a few months ago. The father is a man just entering old age; his body is fit still but beginning to fail, and grey is beginning overtake the brown in his hair. Still, he radiates a quiet, powerful contentment that can put almost anyone at ease. This comes in handy with his new post, as the revelation that the town has recently become the front lines of a secret war against a fallen god has stirred up some uneasiness.

He can often be seen visiting the villagers at their homes with one of his acolytes, Elburt or Tobin. The other acolyte stays at the Church to manage things there, and that autonomy has seen both of them blossom in different ways. Elburn has taken to updating the scrolls and digging into the maps and histories of Oak’s Home, while Tobin has developed a keen interest in the healing arts.

Dame Jenoiella Clearwater (elf)
Dame Jenoiella is an elf whose clan hails from Splendor, one of the few elven families who’ve remained behind in the world of men. She has been a mainstay at Oak’s Home for quite some time and has fashioned herself something of a leader of culture and arts. She has established a Seamstress’ Circle and invested money in many local businesses for a number of years, always hoping to put her personal stamp on the final product. Her relationship with the local tradesmen have diminished somewhat, leaving her free to establish cultural events and assume command of town festivals. She has a reputation as a busybody and a gossip, but most villagers will grudgingly admit that she gets things done and her events are quite memorable.

Recently her family has taken a bump in reputation, with the revelation that her son, Annais Clearwater, and an old family friend, Kenneth Grossman, were both Servants of Sslinosh. However, her nephew and young ward, Allanaea Audalis, has stepped up to prominence with the Baron’s blessing. Like the rest of Oak’s Home, Dame Jenoiella is looking forward to a renewed prosperity.

Allanaea Audalis (Changed)
Allanaea is a recent transplant to the village of Oak’s Home. When he arrived, the villagers understood that he was an elf from Splendor who needed to retire to the country for a strange affliction that would get better with rest. He has been anything but restful — first he was conscripted to become a Sheriff’s Deputy, and had a major hand in discovering and thwarting the Servants of Sslinosh. For his efforts, he has become one of the Changed — a humanoid silver dragon — and been given ownership of the town’s Tavern and Inn.

He has also attempted to bring together a collection of merchants under the Audalis family banner, introducing an audacious plan to offer discounts to services at the Tavern and Inn if certain goods are purchased. He’s also traveled to Splendor to strike alliances with merchants there interested in selling unique goods that come from Oak’s Home.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2013 in RPGs, Writing

 

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The AFI Top 100 Films: Midnight Cowboy (#36)

Entertainment 150Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman
Written by Waldo Salt (screenplay) and James Leo Herlihy (novel)
Directed by John Schlesinger

I have to admit it took me a little while to puzzle this one out. At the end of the Midnight Cowboy you get the sense of closure that comes when a writer tells a complete story; the protagonist’s arc has closed and he’s moved on to another phase of his life, another story. As we watch Joe Buck (Jon Voight, who was young once) staring out of his window on the bus and the sound of the harmonica swells to signal that this is the final image, I’m stuck wondering what the point of it all was. It wasn’t until I talked to Ryan that I got a sense of things, but I’m still not entirely convinced that’s all there is.

Joe Buck is a simple Texas man who decides to leave his dead-end job as a dishwasher and head to New York. He figures that lonely New York socialites don’t see a lot of real American cowboys, and they would gladly pay him for the experience of a tryst. Things don’t quite work out the way he had planned; his first roll in the hay is with a woman who has no idea that he expects to be paid for his work, and the realization of what this is on both ends is both interesting and awkward. Buck learns a lot from the experience, but it leaves him with even less cash in his pocket.

Eating through his finances quickly, Buck manages to run into Rizzo (Hoffman), who turns him on to a man who might be able to help get him established. That fizzles as well, and after that rocky start to the relationship the two end up becoming friends and roommates. Rizzo shows him how to survive a little better in the underworld of New York City, while also forcing Joe to learn how to tolerate his new friend’s less savory characteristics.

The entire time, Joe is trying to fulfill his dream of being a gigolo. Any attempt at a shallow, consequence-free fling ultimately ends up a disappointment, with memories and emotions that tail Joe long after he’s left. He has a trail of these memories he’d like to forget — his closest relationships back in Texas are similarly punctured with feelings of terror, shame and regret. It’s possible that Joe is trying to engage with the world by becoming slick enough that everything rolls right off of him, but that’s a fool’s errand. In order to see the futility in that, he only has to look at his friend and guide, Rizzo.

Rizzo’s lived a scamster’s life for a very long time by the time we meet him, and it doesn’t take long to see that it’s catching up with him. In a lot of ways, we’re catching two men on opposite ends of the same continuum — Joe has come to the city with the dream of gliding through it, fleecing its populace of money with unsavory acts; Rizzo is the man who’s been doing it all along, and all he has to show for it is the detritus he’s collected from other people.

Midnight Cowboy is ultimately kind of depressing, and not just for the story. It actually does a really good job of calling up the peculiar alienation one can feel in a big city, where there are so many people it’s impossible to feel like you stand out, that you matter at all. Joe enters the metropolis with no plans and no connections, and he quickly falls through the cracks to this different community, completely comprised of people just like him. But even that community doesn’t feel true, just someone to share your loneliness with.

Ryan says that Joe’s arc is one of friendship, where he learns to actually put someone else into consideration. There’s something to that — Joe’s naivete at the beginning of the film is a selfish one, and he lights out without telling the people he works with because he genuinely doesn’t believe that his desertion matters. Maybe he was part of that small community in Texas, maybe people had considered him a friend (albeit an odd one); but he never considered that. He couldn’t have, to show up for work one day with a suitcase to announce he was leaving.

My initial take on the movie was that it was a study of what New York City does to people, swallowing them and their dreams whole and spitting them out as disillusioned, but wiser survivors. Joe escapes and throws away his cowboy outfit soon afterwards, and the fact of its significance wasn’t lost on me. When a clerk asks him where he’s from, he says “New York” with a clear Texan accent. He’s taken on the world-weariness, the confusion that comes when you realize you’re not the center of the universe. New York is great at imparting that sort of lesson.

But my ideas about the movie might be heavily influenced by another movie from the top 100, Taxi Driver. It featured the same kind of protagonist, a loner trying to make sense of the society around him, and I don’t think it’s an accident that both movies share the same setting. What’s interesting, I think, is that both the loneliness of Joe Buck and Travis Bickle subvert their desire for connection, their ideals, and it drives it deep down in their psyches only to come out in these twisted ways. Taxi Driver is a lot darker than Midnight Cowboy, but I think that Joe and Travis are kindred spirits that way. The big difference? Joe got out; he’s learned his lesson and he has a chance to apply it. Travis’ fate is…different.

All that being said, while Midnight Cowboy was interesting I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much. It takes its time with its story and the narrative looseness makes its meaning a bit of a mystery. Long montages set to late-60s music are punctuated by snippy conversations between Joe and Rizzo, or scenes that end in a setback for our cowboy hero. The pacing is a product of its time, I realize, but I never really caught on to the shorthand of the arthouse cinema in the late 60s/early 70s. It seems they were really big into sequences of quick cuts that melded disturbing images with more-or-less static, calm ones. The idea is to disorient, to shock, and it succeeds in the worst way.

Still, Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight both give great performances, and you get the feeling that the movie is shot exactly as Salt and Schlesinger wanted it. That surety of vision is admirable, and it’s quite possible that my distance from it is a personal preference more than a qualitative one.

Rating: 6/10.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in AFI Top 100, Movies, Reviews

 

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The State of the Rabbit – April 2013

I’m not very good at those April Fools’ Day pranks that tend to make the rounds on the blogosphere today, so I encourage you to imagine that I did something appropriately awesome and/or crazy and you’re amused or annoyed by it. I’m sure that whatever you could come up with would be better than what I would actually do, so that way everyone wins and I can move on to my more earnest topics!

March was an interesting and harried month for me. I remember working hard a lot for the last four weeks, but I’m not entirely sure I have a lot to show for it. Most of my attention was focused on the Pathfinder game I run around twice a month (more on that later this week), and I think the work was worth it. I’ve hit upon a few veins of story that I’m really excited about, and I get to open up the world in ways I think my players will appreciate. The problem is that while your audience definitely appreciates the work you’re putting in, by nature it’s going to be very small. The adventures of your group of friends tends not to translate too well when you’re telling it to people who aren’t invested.

Maybe that would be a good challenge for myself as a storyteller, talking about my game in a way that hooks people, but that will need to be set aside for another day.

I’ve made progress on writing short stories, though not nearly as much as I’d like. I’m nearly done with “Tight Fit” for Rask, and after that I’d like to jump right in to the next ‘commission-style’ short story for another friend, Elrabin. I think I’d rather take a week or two to edit/rewrite ‘chapter two’ of the fluff story that I was supposed to burst right out of the gate with, just to have that done.

I would make excuses for not reaching my goals (again) last month, but to be honest there simply aren’t any. I didn’t prioritize writing in the way that I should have in order to get myself where I wanted to be and while there are a number of reasons for that it’s still the way it is. Even though things were a little crazy last month, there were still a number of times where I could have been writing and chose to do something else instead; I’m going to have to take a long, hard look in the mirror to determine why that is.

While I’m doing that, though, I’ll keep trying to push on — though with a little less ambition than before. I know what I want to do, and I’ll focus on doing it as quickly and well as I can. We’ll see where I am at the end of April, how many times I’ll decide not to write when I really was able to, and then we’ll go from there.

One of the reasons my mind has been taken away from writing is lingering health issues that are just wearing me out. There’s something wrong with my digestive tract — I’m not eliminating the way I should be, and that’s causing a complication or two that’s painful and awkward to deal with. I’ve been trying to self-manage for most of the month but I’ve finally thrown in the towel on that. I’ll be seeing a doctor today, a few weeks later than I should be, to see what’s wrong and what can be done about it. In addition to that I’ll take a couple of tests to see whether or not I have a gluten sensitivity and once that’s out of the way I’ll be moving my diet a little closer to the Whole 30 model I learned in February. A lot less grains for breakfast, more fresh produce for lunch, that sort of thing. I’m really hoping that the doctor’s visit and the dietary change will yield big improvements, because to be honest I’m ready to not be dealing with constant discomfort at this point.

The health issues have degraded my ability to cope with just about everything; I’m not quite as quick as I could be with work, and that’s a big deal because this would be a great opportunity for me to step up and rock the house right when my department needed me. We’re staring down the barrel of a fairly busy spring with not quite enough resources to manage things — that’s a pretty common problem in corporate America, I’m sure, but it’s my first time dealing with issues of quite this magnitude. I’m ready to step up. I WANT to step up. But my body is making it hard to do so.

To be honest, I’m not sure what this month is going to be like. A lot of that depends on what the doctor has to say and how quickly my digestive issues diminish. Optimistically, I’d like it to be the month where I finally kick it into gear, take strides to write regularly and get back on track in the office. But I know that may not be likely. Fortunately, this rabbit knows that slow and steady wins the race, and I’ll just have to take it that way until I’m ready to move a little faster.

 
 

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