Monday, March 31, 2014

Sunday-ish Update

This week was eaten up by unusual amounts of paperwork, kerfuffle and then family visits. (So we got to move from frustrating to pleasurable, at least.)  I knew about the visits in advance (which is part of the reason I called off blogging activities for a week or so) -- but everything turned out to be more wearing and time consuming that expected.

So I expect I'm going to need ALL the rest of the week to recover and get my momentum up.  However, I do expect to start blogging again starting next Sunday, and possibly start blogging more frequently.

(I have even considered going back on the daily "writing dare," but that's just craziness talking.  I will be continuing the 26 Story Challenge however.)

I do know the next direction I'll take for the Story Game posts: I'll start in on how to create your own story games.  And we'll get on with the plotting series.

In the meantime....

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The 26 Story Challenge

In Friday's Story Game post, I mentioned how I had always wanted to do a particular experiment: I wanted to take the table of contents from an old adventure book from Project Gutenberg, and write a story from the titles of each chapter.

Well, on Friday (which was another one of those crazy bad days in which things went moderately but continuously wrong) I gave up and sat down to play with one of the TOCs.  The story in question had 25 chapters, and I decided to use the title of the book too, so that made for 26 stories.

Then, just for grins, I added a game element: I took my Big Wheel of Crimes and Theories (which temporarily resides here) and rolled a crime or motive element for each title.

Boy did that turn out to be COOL.

Some of the random elements came out with perfect kismet, such as "A Human Spider" which came up as "Burglary."

Others had a title I wasn't sure I could come up with a story for.  For instance, "A Store in Chicago" feels like a regional subject and I don't know enough about Chicago to feel comfortable. (Though I'd come up with something.)  But then I rolled the crime for it and it came up with: "Murder for Inheritance."  So it doesn't have to take place in Chicago. If I like, the inheritance in question can be a store in Chicago.

And there are some old fashioned titles that just feel weird: "So Long as God Gives Us Breath" and the crime came up: "Fault in an unintended misfortune (sports loss, job loss, humiliation in front of mentor, etc.)"  The fact that these don't go together that well might actually be the leverage to coming up with a good story for them.

The Challenge

The stories will be between 200 and 2000 words each.  I might stretch a point for a really good longer idea. (Or I'll save that longer idea for later, and come up with a different short idea -- and write them both.)

Since I want to start submitting to major mystery magazines again, the genre will be loosely defined as "crime" -- just as Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine defines their stories.  (I.e. mildly supernatural stories or SF can be fine if they involve a crime.)  However, I'm going to try to stick to non-supernatural stories.

For the first few stories (this week) I will try to come up with some under-1000 word stories for that KB anthology.

Time frame? No idea.  Other than trying to have a few stories right away, to submit to various publications, I suppose I could set a rough goal of one every two weeks for a year.  They won't have to be polished until I want to submit them, or until the end when I put them in a collection.

Furthermore: it takes time to run stories through the submission process, and any that get bought will take a while to get published, and then a while to revert rights -- so the collection of all of the stories could be years in the making.   We'll see what I'll do with them when I get them in hand, though.

Oh, and one of the things I hope to accomplish with this project is to make it a "fill in" task.  If I run out of steam on a major project, I pick one of these to work on for a change of pace.

(LATER NOTE to all and to self: I'm thinking of turning this into a formal challenge, maybe for next quarter's ROW80.)

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Thinking About a Short Story Game

I don't have a game for you this week.  (Well, maybe some little ones down at the bottom of the post.)  But I'm thinking about a new one:

David commented a few weeks ago that he had been dubious of the game, but was thinking about creating one for writing short stories.

The games I've been coming up with so far have been a little too elaborate for that.  As a matter of fact, even though I created the Situation Game with the hope of writing long novelettes, the stories have been coming out novella length. Or even as short novels.

Which kind of sucks because the original reason I created the game was to get through the writing fast while the story was still hot in my head.

In the meantime, I've been trying to write more flash fiction lately.  A group of us on KBoards want to do an anthology this summer of stories no more than 1000 words.  Usually that isn't a problem for me, but this month I've been coming up with lots of ideas for stories which look like they'll be best at 1500 words or 2000 words. 

But I also want to start submitting to traditional magazines again, so a few extra short-but-not-too-short stories would not be bad to have around.

So a writing game for short fiction would not be a bad idea.


Back to Lester Dent

I mentioned Lester Dent's pulp fiction formula when I gave you a little preview on plotting and talked about the Maverick model of plot.

Dent's formula was designed specifically for short fiction -- 6000 word pulp stories, in particular.  This was divided into four 1500 word acts. (Here is a page with Dent's Actual Formula as written by him.)

So the first step in a short story game might be to take his formula and create wheels of choices for it.  Just for grins, see what kind of stories you'd come up with. 

The problem, of course, is that such stories aren't so popular today, and maybe you aren't interested in writing those classic hard-boiled pulp stories anyway.  Today these stories are appealing on a different level than they were, and they have a different emphasis to please the audience.

So you'd have to adapt it.  But it is a starting place.


Not So Structured Games

Fr me, the best "game" for a short story has always been a writing prompt.  Take a dictionary and flip it open to a random page, and stab your finger at a random word. Write it down. Then chose a second word the same way.

There.  You have a story prompt.

(At least we did back in the day of paper dictionaries.  Not sure how to do this with electronic dictionaries.)

Some of my favorite stories were written because I was sitting in Taco Bell, with time on my hands, and I just looked around and said "Write a story about THAT."   The Enchanted Tree started that way. So did the more recent story Flat Crossing.  (There was a tree outside the one time, and my current Taco Bell is right next to the railroad tracks.)

Very short stories are often "one idea" stories anyway.  You set them up, explore them, bring it to a head and then reveal them. 

One of the things I've wanted to do in terms of this kind of "story game" is to take a Table of Contents from an old novel on Project Gutenberg, and then write a short story or vignette from each of the chapter titles.  And then maybe publishing the collection.

The one problem with doing something like this is that stories created this way tend to vary a lot in tone, genre and style.  So they might not make a good collection, but it could definitely be a fun exercise that would produce some interesting stories.

One solution to this would be to combine something like the Lester Dent approach with  interesting writing prompts.  Maybe come up with some rules on the kinds of stories you want to write before thinking about the prompt.

The problem with THAT is that you could shut down the thing that makes it the most fun.  Of course, one alternate exercise: Take one prompt -- a dictionary exercise, or an object, or one weird old chapter title -- and write several different stories from the same prompt.  A romance, a ghost story, a hard-boiled pulp fiction story.


That's all for this week.  Posting will be irregular for a little bit, as I figure out what I'm going to do with the plotting series.  (I have changed my mind about completely dropping what I was doing. I will at least finish up that last post -- which was really the first half of a post.)

I've got a few other things up my sleeve for you guys too.

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Blog Reboot

I woke up with a cold today, and things slid downhill from there for a while.  I was unable to use my computer or office, and thus I fled the house, only to discover that the batteries had died on my ipad keyboard.  I have a steno pad with me at all times... but today, the pencil ran out of led and the pen had no ink.

Seriously, I don't think I was supposed to write anything today at all, let alone a blog post.

If I had been able to record words in some manner, however, I think the words would have been something like these:

The plotting series seems to have gone off the rails, and completely lost its audience.  And I think I know why.

Usually I get a lot of interest in a theory seires like this, and I also get a lot of interest in the posts where I break down and micro-analyze scenes -- especially with clips from YouTube.  However, in this case, I put these two elements together, and in the end didn't do either very well.

So I'm pulling the plug.

I'm going to reboot the plotting series -- this time I'm going to write the whole thing before I start posting it.  I might start it again as soon as next week.  But don't hold your breath.

I would like to do a full beat-by-beat analysis of some of these movies (and maybe a few books) as a separate thing.  These would be "spoiler" analyses, so I more than likely will post them (if I get around to it) on my unused companion blog "The Daring Novelist Spoilers Blog." (I'd put an alert here when I post there.)

One of the reasons I started the spoilers blog is because I would like to do a "commentary track" type analysis of some movies (and also of my own books perhaps) which isn't necessarily limited to a certain subject. And that was the problem here: I had to keep leaving out things that were intersting because they weren't relevant to the post.  (And, of course, because there were other interesting things I wanted to talk about, I was less interested in talking about the business at hand.)

And there is the fact that some of my fiction is really demanding my attention right now. Which is good, if I can shake this cold.

I may or may not have something for you for the Friday Game post.

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Map Game

This is an exercise that I came across in creative nonfiction circles. It is meant to evoke forgotten memories an details.  Kind of an idea generation exercise for memoir-ists.  However, I think it is a great jumping off point for fiction writers. 

Step 1.  Take a blank piece of paper and put a small x in the middle.  That X represents a place you lived as a child (or just a long time ago).

Step 2.  Start filling in places all around it.  Where's the school or bus stop? Where's your best friend's house? Where is the cranky neighbor who yelled at you for picking his flowers?


Not to scale, and also upside down (South is at the top)

This exercise tends to evoke long forgotten memories.  It also can help flash out memories.  For instance, when drawing a map like this, I found lots of very blank areas that didn't evoke anything, but when I started thinking about my friends, I would recall, "Oh yeah, that kid lived there... and yeah, his mom bred Siamese cats, and that's where we got Dodger.... and remember the discussion of that one litter that was a mix of Siamese and non-Siamese kittens?"

And this brings me to the first way this is useful to the fiction writer:

I will likely use that discussion of the Siamese kittens in one of my romantic suspense novellas -- the discussion was whether the mom cat had, um, been walking out with a mixed-breed tom, or several different suitors of different breeds.  The breeder was certain it had to be several, because she thought eye color and coat color came from different genes, and the Siamese color kittens all had blue eyes.  (She was wrong in this:  Siamese coloring is determined by a kind of albino gene that is heat sensitive.  This same gene also turns eyes blue, and it's responsible for the weak eye muscles that make many Siamese cats cross-eyed.)

This is an ideal sort of memory for my heroine -- because one of her relatives would like to believe she is the bastard child of an unfaithful wife.  The memory of the discussion of kitten parentage evokes both character and information, as well as some thematic elements.

And... memories are maleable things.  Often, when we recapture some image from childhood, we only half remember it. We often can't even be sure we remembered right or understood it at all.  This makes for great fiction writing tools, because we can fill it in in all sorts of ways.


The House Map

Another version of this exercise can be to draw the plan of a house you lived in as a child. (Or a classroom, or other place you spent a lot of time.)  You can include the yard or barn.  Where was your room? Are  there any rooms you don't remember well, because you didn't spend time there?  Where were you when you first saw The Wizard of Oz on TV?  Where were your for your birthday party?  Sketch out the furniture you remember.

One of the reasons I like this one better than the other is because it can evoke the patterns of life.  How and where we eat.  Where we spend our time.  How we play and work.  (As I went through a few of these exercises, I was surprised to realize that throughout most of my childhood, I didn't use furniture.  I spent much of my time on the floor.)


The Geography of Your Story

Fantasy writers like to draw out maps of their magical universes -- The lair of the dragon, the mountains, the dark wood, the trail through the badlands.  This is fine for a "road" story where your characters are traveling.  It can also help with world-building, to help pin down details.

However, as with the exercises above, I think that smaller maps, or house plans, can help all kinds of writers.  It is the landscape your drama happens in.   Whether it's an action scene, or a quiet melodrama -- your characters are limited and helped by their physical surroundings.

I suppose this is why the Golden Age mystery writers often included maps of the crime scene in their books -- a tool for keeping track of the clues and action.  But I think of it as even more than that.  Setting is something the characters work with.

I always think of the wonderful scene in the first act of Dial M For Murder: when Ray Milland invites the man he hopes to hire to commit murder into his house and lays out his plan.  Milland's character uses that space first to set the man at ease, then to manipulate him, and finally to rehearse the murder which will happen later.  (I talked about this use of space in a post about Hitchcock and Creative Limits.)


Character's Houses

Although I don't often do maps of my character's houses, I do pause to think about the layout.  I like to feel as much at home in their houses as they do.  Karla's house, in The Man Who Did Too Much, is based on my grandmother's house (but with a bigger kitchen).  Scenes that take place in that house are often very dynamic, just because I have a feel for  it and I find the characters constantly move around within it -- even in a non-action scene.

Mick and Casey don't have a house, but because they are prone to get into action scenes, I almost always have to figure out the plan of every barn and hotel, and saloon and ranch house they may encounter.  (Because sure as shootin' Mick is probably going to have to leap in or out of a window.)

And, of course, every house reflects the owner in some way.  I was thinking about this as George buys a house at the end of The Man Who Did Too Much -- I have a feeling that house is going to ALWAYS be under construction.  And the furniture will change constantly. (Though in the next book it appears he doesn't have any furniture.  Except lawn furniture and a fully appointed professional kitchen.)


So, take some time to draw out some maps -- real ones, imaginary ones.  Don't forget to do small maps of small details, like rooms, and not just where the mountains and dragons are.  You find so much in little things.

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Plotting Part 7 - Problems and Catalysts

(Continuing with the Plot Structure Series. Still working on the opening "Set Up" section of the story. Check out Part 1 - Overview. Part 2- Opening ImagePart 3 - Character Intros 1. Part 4 - Character Intros 2. Part 5 - Action Is Character. Part 6 - Foreshadowing. )

We're still talking about the set up portion of the standard plot formula. (Basically the first half of the first act, if you go by Hollywood formulas.)  We will move along a lot quicker when we get past this two part post, I think.  The problem here is that the opening really has a lot to do.  In some sense, it is a miniature of the whole story -- it has to set everything up.

But don't worry, you don't have to actually pack it all in there, you just have to get it started.  All the same, this is why many writers will write the opening last.  (And why others will blather out false chapters to get their feet wet, and then cut them once they know where they are going.)


So far we've looked at the whiz bang cool stuff of the opening portion of a plot -- things like the opening image and character introductions.

What I'm going to talk about today is less flashy, but more important. It's the real meat or substance of the opening of your story:


What's wrong?

Blake Snyder calls this "Six Things That Need Fixing."  The number six here is an arbitrary number.  He's just pushing the idea that you need a hit list for this section. You are setting up things to be addressed later.

I actually don't like the idea of the list, or the idea that they will be specifically addressed.  I think that pushes certain kinds of problems and action on the writer.  It is efficient, but when I look at well-done stories -- film or fiction -- I find that some of the things in this category really do resolve themselves naturally in the course of the story.

So we can call them just "Things that are wrong," or maybe even better "Things that we want to change." I say "want to" because we don't always get everything we want. 

A prime example of a problem which is not fixed is It's A Wonderful Life.  Jimmy Stewart deserves a chance to go to Europe, to study and become the best he can be.  He never gets to do that.  In this supposedly happy, feel-good holiday story, his dreams are crushed -- repeatedly.  He sacrifices those dreams for his town and his family.  If this were a "thing that needs fixing" then the ending implies it was wrong of him to have that dream. It would imply that there was something wrong with him.  (And that's actually what he comes to believe. He feels worthless and hopeless.)  But he was not wrong to want those things.  We aren't hoping for him to get a clue and stop wanting them. We want them for him.

But it is not in the power of those who love him to fulfill his dreams.  This is a sacrifice he chooses to make.  If it weren't a sacrifice, the story wouldn't mean much.

Other examples would be any great tragedy.  In any tragedy, the key thing that's wrong is the pride or prejudice of the tragic hero -- he is doomed because this cannot be fixed.

In addition to these personal problems and flaws, I've decided to also talk about the Inciting Incident, or Catalyst.  I was going to save that for a separate post, but I realize that is actually very much a part of this subject.  It is the big problem that drives the story, and it's indeed something that is wrong, and something we want to see fixed. (Even if it's a tragedy and won't be.)

The Inciting Incident

Nearly all plot theories talk about this in some way. This is the event that sets the story in motion.  It is often defined as "The Thing That Throws The Protagonist's Life Out of Balance and Forces Him to Act."

And many many theories say it's supposed to happen (in a two-hour movie) at the 15 minute mark.

But here's the thing: it almost never does happen then.  (At least it didn't until all the screenwriters in Hollywood started following the same theories too closely.)  Something happens at that moment, usually something that shifts the balance of the story into a new direction, but it generally isn't the real inciting incident.

There is one story guru who acknowledges this: Robert McKee in his giant writing book Story, says that the inciting incident must happen as early as possible, or if it has to be delayed, there should be some kind of teaser or foreshadowing incident.  He uses the example of Jaws: The story begins with an unwitnessed shark attack.

This gives us the Big Thing That's Wrong long before the characters will realize it.

And that's one of the secrets of ramping up the opening of your story: if you want to avoid boring the audience with trivia and cliched little problems, give us the BIG problem first. Set Jaws up with the shark, before we learn that the police chief is afraid of water.

So, let's start today by talking about one of the movies we talked about last time, then we'll finish up next week with a couple of others.

(NOTE: I'm sorry that I don't have any clips this week -- this section is one that very seldom get excerpted onto YouTube.)


Inside Man - Very Neat and By the Book

Spike Lee does a very efficient job of setting up the things that are wrong in his opening sequences of Inside Man.

It starts with the bank robbery -- this is the Inciting Incident.  It's what sets everything in motion. Even though we don't know who the good guys and bad guys are yet, we know that the police and the bank and the customers and the robbers all have to deal with this problem of the robbery.  This is a problem for them all, and without anything else, it's sufficient to carry the story.

So frist we meet the bank robber antagonist -- a slightly scary, precise, controlling and very smart guy.  And then the robbery itself is also smart, very controlled, and follows up on our what our robber told us at the beginning: pay close attention, everything he does is deliberate, and he won't repeat himself.

That opening robbery sequence ends with a beat cop seeing some smoke coming under the door of the bank, trying to get in, and suddenly finding himself face to face with the masked robber, who sticks a gun in his face and says "We have hostages."  He doesn't waste time. He doesn't repeat himself. He pulls back into the bank and locks the door.

This is the kind of moment that many theorists consider to be the Inciting Incident -- because it's the moment when the protagonist(s) are made aware of the problem. The conflict begins.

But we haven't reached the magic 15 minute mark, and we haven't even met the protagonist yet.

So next, we finally get to meet the protagonist: Detective Frazier (Denzel Washington).  In one very neat, compact scene we discover all that is wrong in Frazier's life: he's under suspicion of having stolen some money from a drug dealer, so even if he is not suspended, he's definitely in the dog house at work.  His girlfriend wants to get married, and he's not ready to commit.  Her good-for-nothing younger brother lives with them, causing constant stress, and it appears to be a permanent situation, because she loves her brother and Frazier won't say no to her.  So what he really needs is a promotion so he can afford to move to a bigger house to give them all some space.

And big reason he cites for not wanting to get married: he can't afford a ring. You need a diamond ring to get married.

He already knows his best solution: his own ambition. He needs to make Detective First Grade.  And as the story starts, he has almost no chance of it, with this corruption allegation hanging over his head.  All the same, he is confident he can do it. He is, in some ways, like the bank robber in that confidence.

And lo and behold, at the end of the scene, he gets the news: there is a bank robbery with hostages, and the other negotiator is on vacation, so he gets the case.

What happens at the 15 minute mark -- the thing that closes this sequence and begins the next?

Detective Frazier commits his first act of leadership: he checks on the officer who was first on the scene -- a guy who had a scary encounter with the robbers -- and not only gets his report, but asks questions to see how he's holding up, and offers to let him go home.  The officer says he'd prefer to see it through -- a sign that Frazier is building a team.

And so this set up sequence begins with the robber taking control, and it ends with the hero making his very first move to take control back.  His action irrevocably changes the dynamics of the story.  The next sequence will be about him taking over the large operation that is the police response to this robbery.

One thing I think is interesting about this story is that the inciting incident doesn't throw the protagonist for a loop.  It throws him a life preserver.  This is a positive development for him.

And that's not terribly unusual.  A variation on this happens with In the Heat of The Night, which I'll talk about next time.  Also, I'll talk about a classic movie with a very different set up structure, just to show you how you don't have to do all of these things in the opening sequence. Sometimes you can slow it down.  That movie will be the classic western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

But before that, on Friday's Story Game, I'll finally tell you about the Map Game.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Barely Accessible Street (Pix)

After our non-handicapper accessible adventures yesterday, my friend gave me permission to link to her LiveJournal blog where she posted pictures of the snow piles in front of her house.  The first two pictures show the piles of snow in the front. Some of those peaks are taller than I am so think about five and a half feet.  The third picture shows a spot that's hard to get to (the car has a slot that it fits into almost exactly, and so you have to climb several feet of snow to get back to that.  However, back there the snow IS lower, like maybe 2-3 feet.

I figure if we have any more snow, I'll have to show up with snowshoes and a sled to schlep any snow I remove from the walk to the back.

Here's one of the pictures for those who don't care to click through to other sites....



See you in the funny papers.

Monthly Report - Michigan Winter is NOT Handicapper Accessible

First Sunday Report For March 2014

I decided to start doing a monthly update rather than a weekly one.  Technically, this is no longer Sunday, but hey.

Today was an enjoyable but challenging day, after a pretty chanllenging week.  And I am declaring Spring Break.

It's Mardi Gras week. It's time to let the bon temps rouler. 

So, no blog posts this week. I'll catch up with you guys on Tuesday the 11th.  (This should give me time to get ahead on the blogging. I think I was running out of steam this last week or two.)

In the meantime -- my adventures:

Last, oh, Thursday was it?  The igniter on my oven gave up.  No stove, and a batch of bread dough rising.  Luckily I hadn't actually started the brownie dough.  Stuck the bread in the fridge, and arranged to take it to a friend's house to bake it the next day.  (The same friend involved in today's adventures further down.)

Next morning, the furnace had gone out.  The coldest day yet.  High in the negatives.  The furnace guy did get out and fix it right away, but it was all day getting the house back up to temperature.   And the house was SUPER dry by then.  We went to Home Depot and found ourselves a nice Frigidaire gas range, but it wouldn't be delivered until Saturday.

In the meantime the snow was stacked up so high, that we had to be concered about them actually getting the stove up the walk.  Much chopping and hacking and arranging, but on Saturday we did get a stove. It's lovely.  I've baked bread, brownies, pop-overs. (Unfortuately, like all new items of every sort, it outgasses the first day or two you use it.  This on top of super dry, sinus-killing air.  And that "new stove smell" is not as bad as some.)

A Most Inaccessible Day

We discovered that North by Northwest was playing today in a REAL THEATER, so we decided to see it.  My movie-going friend is a wheel-chair user.  She gets along great unless there is any variety of snow or ice on the patch of walk between her house and her car.

The current guy who shovels her walk doesn't get this.  He doesn't understand that the whole point of her hiring him is not about avoiding a ticket from the city for sidewalk maintenance. She hired him because if there is any snow or ice at all on her walk, she is trapped in her house.  This is more of a problem than the fact that she lives on a secondary road that is never plowed.  After all, she's lived in Duluth.  She knows how to drive in snow, she just can't walk in it.

And because of her large van for the chair and all, and also because in winter it's hard to park on her street because it isn't plowed, she's the one who does all the driving when we go places.

Unless she can't get to the car.

So last night we got another five inches of snow.  (We had 49 inches just in January. We've lost count of how much since then.) Shoveling guy didn't show up. but we sorta expected that, so I had already arranged for someone to give me a ride to her house early, so I could shovel her walk.

It's a short walk.

But...

...there is also now no more place to put the snow when you shovel it.

The piles of shoveled snow are already taller than they are wide.  The piles of snow on the right-of-way between the sidewalk and the road are already so tall that when you try to pull out of a driveway or at an intersection, you cannot see the traffic coming.  And she has a small yard, which is piled up just as high as the right-of-way.

Yeah, it's like Qu├ębec.

So even though the snow was fluffy and light, I had to pick it up one shovel-full at a time and walk it around to a low spot further along.  Also, I had to find a place to put the snow swept off her car, because it made a drift too deep to drive through unless you have momentum.

But hey, got that done.


Too the movies!

Got there and found that, though they had plowed the parking lot, they had not plowed it down to pavement nor salted it. So there was an inch of packed snow on the ground.  Easy to drive on. Easy to walk on.

Impossible to roll a wheel chair across.  (The little front wheels get utterly stuck.)

The only way to get through that kind of snow with a wheel chair is to pull it backwards.  And you use very different muscles when you pull than when you push.  And the snow means you have to pull hard.

Furthermore, this particular theater thought it would be cool to have a grand entrance with no parking within 30-40 yards of the building.  They do have lots of handicapper parking, but they also are located across from a retirement village, so the handicapper parking is usually mostly full -- if you get a space, it'll be quite a ways out.

So, we slog and haul backwards through the parking lot, then across lanes of traffic in ground up snow that's even deeper.  Up a long sloped median, and back down to the next lanes of traffic, across that and up the wide, sloped entrance area.  And all this time she's pulling as hard as she can on the wheels to help -- getting her gloves just soaked with the snow on the wheels.

My thighs, butt and upper arms are going to be very sore tomorrow.

By the time we got in, it was almost time for the movie to start, and the handicapper and companion seats tend to fill up, so we raced to the theater to claim the last spot.  Then I went out to get us some beverages. (My mouth was completely dried out by this time.  Did I mention that the high temperature was 13 today, and the air was dry as a popcorn's fart?)

I was worried I would miss the credits -- because when they show these classics, they do not have previews.  North By Northwest has credits by Saul Bass.  I didn't want to see this on the big screen and not see the credits.  It may not be exciting to non-designers, but they excite the heck out of me.  Also they end with one of my favorite Hitchcock cameos: he chases his own name off the screen.  (Here is the two minute North by Northwest credit sequence for those who are interested.)

Oh, and Foreshadowing: For those following the Plotting series, North By Northwest also has some interesting foreshadowing in the opening sequences but I'll just mention one.  It's a musical reference (just like Inside Man):  as Cary Grant enters the Plaza hotel, there's a quartet playing in the background. They are playing "It's a Most Unusual Day."  Which of course is exactly what it will turn out to be.

Anyway, it was a nice afternoon. And when we got to the Mexican restaurant to eat afterwards, we sneered at their pathetic attempt to keep us out by leaving piles of snow between the handicapper spot and the ramp.  (Their sidewalk and lot were actually beautifully clear.  That little pile wasn't much at all.  Amateurs!)

So.. now I'm exhausted, and I just want to do some reading and watching.  (And cooking.)  It's Spring Break. It's Mardi Gras.

Let's join BB King in letting the good times roll, baby.



See you in the funny papers.