October 3rd, 2008

Early Permian

Howard Hughes and the Culture of Distraction

Trying to get back into The Red Tree, I spent yesterday reading (and proofreading) Chapter Three. There's no escaping the fact (and I say this again) that this novel needs several more months. Be that as it may, I have this month to finish it. And that's all the time I have to find THE END of The Red Tree. Yesterday, mostly, I was looking for loose threads that I do not wish to remain loose. The murders of 1922-1925, for example, or Sarah's having contacted someone at URI about taking Dr. Harvey's unfinished ms. off her hands. That sort of thing. I sat in a chair in the front parlour while I read, and the sun made me very, very sleepy, and made my eyes burn.

Later, Spooky cajoled me into getting dressed and go with her to the market on the Eastside (to get stuff for chili), then to the Dexter Training Ground to pick up our weekly CSA produce bag. It was chilly and windy out, but not unpleasant. The trees are looking more autumnal. So, yes, I left the house yesterday.

Later still, we watched Rob Minkoff's The Forbidden Kingdom, which we both found quite entirely delightful. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the film comes off a bit like a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, only instead of Oz, we get a mythic version of Medieval China. Jet Li and Jackie Chan are great. Yifei Liu (Golden Sparrow) and Bingbing Li (Ni Chang) are great and hot. Michael Angarano even managed to make a pretty good Dorothy Gale. As Spooky said, "It's a very sweet movie, and there aren't enough sweet movies these days." Indeed. Later, there was World of Warcrack, of course, and Shaharrazad made it to Lvl 14, while Mithwen struggles though the first part of Lvl 23. I am beginning to fear that WoW may actually force players to form groups, in order to advance, and that it's very, very hard to get anywhere as a loner. Which would suck.

Please have a look at the current eBay auctions, which will be ending late this afternoon. Bids are appreciated.


So, there's this whole revelation I've had about the Culture of Distraction, as it pertains to the life of an author. It's a very painfully obvious sort of revelation, the sort that I should have had long ago. But I can be slow about these things. We are deluged, as a society, and probably as a planet, with distraction. With the means of easy distraction, easy entertainment, and endless forms of socializing. It pours in via our computers, TVs, cellphones, PlayStations, X-Boxes, iPods, and what have you. There is easily enough here to drown anyone. As it stands, no one ever has to exist in a moment of silence. Solitude is easier to avoid than to find. That greatest of all human fears, greater even than the fear of death —— the fear of being alone —— can be avoided. Oh, everyone is still alone, at the end of the day, but the ceaseless noise is there to make it seem otherwise. There's almost an expectation that one has a duty to engage in electronic social multi-tasking every moment of the day. And how can anyone be alone when you can simultaneously talk on your cellphone, and text talk, and IM, and Twitter (gagh), and yammer on LJ and MySpace and Tribe and Facebook and Skype and what the hell ever? Can't find RL friends or lovers? Well, there's always SL, or cyber on WoW (or so I am told), and aren't surrogates better than nothing at all?

Point is, as an author, I must have solitude. Even though, mostly, it frightens me. I hate the sound of my own mind in the absence of all other sound. It is a dreadful roar. And so, especially over the last year and a half, I have fled into the arms of this plethora of services that help to dampen the noise. It's not so very different than the trouble I've had, on and off, my whole life with pills and alcohol. Something to take the sharp, gleaming edge off being alone with myself. When, in truth, being alone with myself a little more often is exactly what I need. It's what any author must have. It's no good to have a room of one's own, if you then fill it up with unending interaction with Others. Looking at it all now, it sort of horrifies me. This constant need I see for interaction, for contact, for "peer to peer" reassurance. So, I'm withdrawing from the Distraction, and yeah, that was one of many reasons that I bowed out of the Howards End sim (and SL, in general). I'll keep the LJ (and the MySpace account, which is only there to function as a mirror of this journal). I'll play genuine games, like WoW, but I will a) never forget they are only games, and b) I will play them in moderation.

For better or worse, this is what I am, a writer. And so I must sometimes —— often, really —— just sit and stare out the window at the wide carnivorous sky. Or walk along the shore and hear the sea. Or read a book. Or listen to Spooky reading to me. Or stare at the woodgrain of the floor while daydreaming. Or listen to music. Or drift for half an hour in a tub of hot water. Sometimes, I must go for days without any significant contact with other people. I must seek out friends in the "real world," when I have need of the company of friends. "Networking" is a thing I do when I cannot avoid it. I must watch people, whether I like them or not. I must unplug far more often. I must be content with the noise in my head, and stop trying to drown it with the Noise of the World.