Sunday, October 16, 2011

I'm Damaged

A week and a day ago I saw my first 3D movie. It was “Dolphin Tale” and I enjoyed it. And it damaged my brain.

At first I thought it was just a headache. They say that happens to some people, so I wasn’t concerned. The first sign something was wrong was when I still had the headache the next morning.

It took me a couple of days to get over it: not just the headache but dizziness, confusion and the sense of not knowing exactly where the edges of my body were. After that I declared I was over it and drove for several hours, an indirect route from New Hampshire to southern Connecticut.

I shouldn’t have. For the next four days I was shaking, dizzy to the point of falling over, walking into things, and randomly using words I hadn’t even thought of. I heard the word I meant, I even felt it in my mouth as it came out, but everyone in the room told me I’d said something else. I said “fry pan” and they heard “Filipino.”

I stayed in Connecticut until I felt safe to drive again, and came back Friday. Now it’s Sunday and I’m still not back to normal. Speech doesn’t come automatically. English feels like a foreign language: I have to work to remember the words, think about how to put them together to form a sentence. I have to focus to keep from slurring or spouting nonsense syllables.

I don’t know how long this will last. I do know the problem is almost minor when I’m well-rested and quite bad when I’m tired. Tomorrow, when my doctor’s office is open, I’ll make an appointment. And I know that no matter what happens, I’m going to be fine, because even if the damage is permanent, I can still write.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Carlos Robson

Yesterday I had the chance to attend a poetry performance by Carlos Robson.

I almost didn’t go. I could just imagine what it would be like: an hour of whining, if I was lucky. If I wasn’t lucky, he’d be the kind of ‘poet’ who puts together disjointed images of gore and perversion, just to shock the audience.

I did go, of course. I’m a writer, after all, and a poetry performance is, at least marginally, an event in my field. It was free, and it was very close to where I was staying at my brother’s place in New Haven, Connecticut. I went because I couldn’t come up with a decent excuse not to.

I loved it. Instead of whining, I heard inspiration; instead of shock, respect. And it was the kind of inspiration and respect you can believe in, because it was anchored not in lofty ideals but in practical reality. The audience was mostly young and urban, and Carlos spoke their language.

The poem that affected me most was about his uncle, who was a fan of “The Wizard of Oz” and who lost his mind in the Vietnam War. Let me back up and fill in some context.

I recently finished writing a novel about terrorism. To write it, I immersed myself in the twisted mind of the mass murderer and put myself in the shoes of the victims. And I wrote it too fast, didn’t give myself the time to take the insanity in pieces.

After that, to help myself heal, I’ve been working with my daughter on something just for fun: a fan fiction teleplay. To get to know my characters and make them ‘real,’ I always make them my imaginary friends. Sure, I get caught talking to myself, and it probably means I’m diagnosably crazy, but the technique works. Lately, I’ve had a Cardassian Gul from Star Trek following me around whether I ask him to or not. And it just so happens that his planet was recently reduced to a ball of rubble in a particularly horrible war.

So with all that in mind, I sat in a Connecticut classroom last Friday and watched Carlos Robson take on the persona of his uncle. “Follow orders!” he yelled at the tornado. “Follow orders!” Then sadly, “Follow the yellow brick road. The road is paved with the faces of the dead.”

The poems weren’t all so heartbreaking. In fact, even the tragic ones contributed to the overall message: “Don’t let anybody stop you from doing what you need to do to get where you’re going.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cat Protection Software

I decided to check out some new writing software, and if it's anything like it claims on its website, this one's pretty amazing.

It's called Yarny, and it was created for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), in which a lot of crazy writers each attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. Here's what the Yarny people have to say for it: "Yarny lets you write the way you want to write, using any approach you like, in a simple, distraction-free environment." A list of features on the page boasts:

Auto saves your work
Automatic versioning
Supports virtually any writing method
Stay organized with people, places & things
Distraction-free writing
Full-screen mode
Export all or some of your writing
Trash can, to recover deleted snippets
Tags for classifying and quickly finding
Free forever plan
Paid plans beginning in December

All those features sound really useful to me, except maybe the last one. But it's the distraction-free writing that has me in awe. Imagine it: software I can rely on to keep my cousin from choking the cat, fetch snacks from high shelves, feed the fire and turn down the TV. I have got to have that program.