Week 19: Somerville

Locations: Somerville, MA


Dates: 12/22/96-12/28/96

Sunday I did some writing (for the first time in several days, alas) and laundry; also heavily revised the story reading guide. That night I had dinner at Michael's with him and Sarah G; we proofread Michael's latest catalog (this is what English majors do for light after-dinner entertainment). After returning to Bhadrika & Steve's, I stayed up 'til 4 doing email and Web stuff...

Monday I woke up with a bit of a cold. Sigh. I'd hoped I was all through with that for the year. In the afternoon I went over to Michael's again for another game of Knightmare Chess (I'd played him a couple of games on Saturday). After a strong opening, I lost heavily again. This time I resigned rather than suffer through another lingering endgame. The game does allow a solo king to survive an incredibly long time against overwhelming odds, but at a certain point it's no longer worth it...

Afterward, Michael let me scan a bunch of photos using his new scanner. They're now available on my photo page, and I've gone back and incorporated links to them from the relevant travelogue weekly pages. More on this as things develop.

We ordered Indian food to be delivered; not bad. Then I collected my stuff from Bhadrika & Steve's and walked it over to Deb & Charles'. Tried to do some travelogue updating, but BBEdit Lite suddenly self-destructed for no obvious reason. I spent the next two and a half hours downloading a new version from the Web. Bleah.

Still not feeling entirely well, I stayed in bed particularly late on Tuesday. Eventually got up, listened to some music, read some, and did more cleanup and enhancement on the travelogue. A lazy stay-at-home day. Until evening, when I went to Bhadrika & Steve's for dinner. After dinner, back to D&C's for more email & Web stuff.

By the way, our book The VRML 2.0 Handbook was selected as book of the week at smartbooks.com! I'd rather it'd been chosen some week other than Christmas week, but oh well. And smartbooks was in turn chosen as site of the week by InformationWeek! Cool beans.

Anyway, I got to bed before midnight, feeling ill and tired, and proceeded to barely sleep all night. Got up around 9, gradually wandered off to meet David VS at Debby & John's. We spent a nice day together, mostly just talking, but also playing Knightmare Chess. Over to David's place for dinner with him and Ruth, then back home. Very cold outside. Very tired. Oddly, almost nobody wished me a Merry Christmas all day... Of course, almost nobody was around.

I did ask one person for directions at one point; he turned out, of course, to be just a visitor from out of town. Which prompted me to add a new item to my tips for Boston drivers.

I stayed home Thursday, trying to shake the remains of a cold and working on SWAPA. Thursday evening I saw a movie on video at Michael's, then went food shopping and picked up some stuff at Steve & Bhadrika's.

Friday afternoon I saw another movie with Beth, then talked with Rob on the phone about our screenplay for a while (he was temporarily back in CA). Then spent a while trying to find something to read at story reading. Finally found something, but story reading didn't happen after all, as too few people showed up. Ah, well.

On Saturday afternoon I went with Michael to a play at A.R.T., which btw provides leftover Saturday matinee tickets (the Monday before the show) at "whatever you can afford" prices. Way cool.

The last few days of the week I did a lot of SWAPA catchup and lazing around in bed. Also some uncomfortable reflection: I've been on leave from SGI for almost five months now, and traveling for just over four, and by this point in the trip I'd hoped to have accomplished more. That is, I've accomplished plenty in terms of seeing friends (which was, after all, the main point of the trip), and personal growth (I'm far more capable of speaking with strangers than I was six months ago), and reading a lot of books and seeing a lot of movies. And I've got two stories at magazines waiting to be rejected. But I haven't got half a dozen stories out at magazines, and when I get back to the novel I'm going to have to start over pretty much from scratch. One screenplay is over 65 pages long now, but that's only first draft and there's a long way to go; the other screenplay's outline needs a major rewrite before the first draft can even start. It's dispiriting; it shows that I've got some discipline, but not nearly enough to make a go at being a professional writer. But I suppose one can work up to these things.

I spent part of the week reading parts of Le Guin's Always Coming Home and having a hard time slogging through it; I eventually realized that it feels like nonfiction and I'm reading it in my slow nonfiction mode. Around the same time, it occurred to me that I've never liked reading nonfiction, have done as little of it as possible, and I never dreamed that I would be making a living writing the stuff...

Anyway, enough introspection. The week is over, and it's time to move along to next week.

Movies, Books, etc.

Maynard Moose Tales
I don't normally mention audio tapes in this section, but I have to make an exception for this delightful collection of fractured fairy tales created and performed in the traditional moose manner by an engaging lunatic named Willy Claflin (also known as Maynard Moose). Laugh-out-loud funny the whole way through.
The Colour of Magic, by Terry Pratchett
Finally decided to find out what the hoopla over Pratchett is all about, and decided that though he's a good parodist (these stories parody Leiber, Lovecraft, McCaffrey, and someone else, maybe Dunsany), it's really nothing special. The stories consist of about four jokes used over and over again (such as: there's this guy traveling around a magical kingdom, see, only (get this) he's a tourist!), but fortunately have enough redeeming plot that if you don't appreciate the humor (somewhere between Douglas Adams and PierXanthony) you can still appreciate the imagination and surprises of the fantasy world.
The Road to Wellville
Disappointingly sophomoric considering the talent involved (Alan Parker, Matthew Broderick, Anthony Hopkins, John Cusack, et alia); lots of "humor" derived from characters talking about bodily fluids and body parts. On the plus side, the supporting cast is largely excellent, and there are several very funny moments; still, on the whole not worth watching.
Mars Attacks
Goofy, silly, fun; great cast; a one-joke movie, but it's a fairly good joke (and between this and Independence Day, they manage to blow up a substantial percentage of the world's great monuments); too bad the Martians don't actually attack for far too long. I nitpicked about the computer animation, but only because I knew what to look for; the effects are really quite good, and couldn't have been done at all ten years ago.
Maynard Moose: Sleeping Beastly
The second Maynard Moose tape isn't nearly as good as the first; a good bit of this one is taken up by straightforward retellings (with humorous asides) of two normal (and very repetitive) fairy tales ("Stick, beat the dog so it will bite the pig so it will go over the stile so we can get home tonight"), which children would probably enjoy but adults probably wouldn't. The other three stories are better (though at least one is less accessible for kids), but still not as good as the first tape.
The King Stag, by Carlo Gozzi
I don't normally like extremely stylized theatre, but this American Repertory Theatre production was quite enjoyable; lots of superb costuming, low-tech special effects, and other stage elements, some very funny bits, and a cool idea for a magic spell. The acting was (presumably intentionally) overblown and not terribly exciting, and the translation/updating of references from 18th(?)-century Italian occasionally felt too gimmicky and topical; nonetheless, definitely worth seeing.

(Last updated: 7 January 1997.)

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