(NOTE re: my brain malfunction – originally I wrote “THANKS to do at Work When it’s Slow.” WOW, just… WOW. My sincerest apologies.)
As if the stack of books in my room I haven’t read isn’t big enough. I may be coming into an explosion of free time soon, so I consider this preparation. The big one on the list for me is Jonathan Franzen’s new novel Freedom. It’s his first work of fiction in nine years (since, in fact, The Corrections, which I will be re-reading before I start this new one). Of course, I can’t get enough David Foster Wallace, but as much as he interests me, I’m intrigued and apprehensive about reading fellow writer David Lipsky’s Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace, which is…what it says. But. I am interested in Wallace’s own book about set theory (see Wikipedia section below), called Everything and More: a Compact History of Infinity. In college, I really got into deductive logic and this seems like interesting if challenging fun. Also, it is way cheap on Amazon.com. I know some people are wary of ordering books or CDs or DVDs online. I’ve been doing it for years with excellent results. Other books: The Winter of Our Discontent, by John Steinbeck, was recently highly recommended to me. Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. And Russell Banks’ Continental Drift, which, now that I think of it, I might own. I’ve also been feeling like reading more Ray Bradbury, but I don’t know what. It’s difficult to justify buying more and more books that I may never get around to reading. A better system would be to buy a book only when I am going to read it, or a DVD only when I’m going to watch it. But then where’s the adventure in that?
The Universe expands. I’ve got between 70 and 90 minutes of commute each day. Which sounds like a lot and seems like a lot but isn’t nearly sufficient to bear the weight of podcast minutes each week. So, since things are slow at work, I’ve taken to listening during the day. My go-to podcasts, since the dawn of my iPod, are Filmspotting (which recently had an excellent meet-up here in LA, always great to talk with Adam Kempanaar) and This American Life. I’m also decidedly partial to the great Battleship Pretension, and the Creative Screenwriting Podcast is always interesting and insightful and has great writers discussing their process, projects, how they got started in writing (both personally and professionally). And then there are the shows I love but don’t necessarily listen to regularly, like Elvis Mitchell’s The Treatment (which this week has Christopher Nolan, so, yeah, I’m all about that one) and Radiolab, which is essentially This American Life but with science. Thankfully Watching Theology only has episodes every month or so. But then finally, there are two new podcasts; well, one isn’t really a podcast, it’s the weekly sermons of Reality LA, the church many of my friends go to. Nonetheless, the sermons are expertly crafted, spiritually and intellectually sound, and extremely in-depth. The other show is a podcast, and is kindof a cross between …Life and Creative Screenwriting. It’s The Tobolowsky Files, a series of stories about life, love, and the entertainment industry, as told by character actor Stephen Tobolowsky. You have no idea how amazing these stories are. How beautiful and engaging and strange and funny and wonderful. It’s a relatively young podcast, fewer than 50 episodes. I’m in the process of catching up, but this podcast is becoming one of the most vital. I can’t really explain it any better than by just imploring you to go and listen to episode 13: Conference Hour, which had me in both outrage and tears by the end. “Tobo” has lived such a rich, fascinating life, and the way he brings us through, the details he offers, the insight he achieves; it’s simply astounding (I usually load 3 or 4 onto my iPod at once and this morning, to my horror, I was out of new ones. Nooooo!!!)
The question is this. Does a lack of work to do make you complete the work you do have more easily and quickly, or does it make you annoyed to do anything now that you’ve gotten used to your distraction?
Since it’s one of the few things not blocked by our (hold on, phone call) firewall. So, I’ve been following up with the oil spill and the Senate vote for stricter regulations to avoid another financial crisis, which sounds good except that its critics think maybe it’s not going to really accomplish any damn single thing. I suppose we’ll see. I hope it works. Landmark legislation isn’t really so much of a landmark unless it accomplishes what it sets out to. Otherwise, isn’t it just wasting time? Also, I read a startling piece (here) about the ineffectiveness of regular exercising for people (mostly men) who spend the majority of their day sitting (or just being generally inactive). As someone whose day has been sitting in a car to come sit in a desk to go sit back in the car to go home and sit in front of a computer editing this is kindof frightening! Apparently the exercise can keep us in shape, but it doesn’t counter-act the negative effects in terms of decreasing serious health risks. Scary.
Aside from looking up information about every author I mentioned back in the Reading List section, and just a moment ago looking Flock of Seagulls for my Supervisor who’s at jury duty and trying to think of the group who sang “Don’t You Want Me Baby” (It’s Human League, the inter-web taught to me), I also got a cursory understanding of set theory and Russell’s Paradox, which contains the very wordplay David Foster Wallace purloined for his first novel. Mathematical systems have always fascinated me. I look back on the junior-in-high-school me who hit the wall with Pre-Calculus, and I wish I could go back now (Yep, my mathematical prowess here at 26 is that of a 17 yr old. Wow).
This gets tricky. My roommate has the ideal situation for non-working-at-work. Graveyard shift, Fed-Ex Office. Eight hours often without a customer. Full internet. Can bring in stuff to work on. If that were me, I’d have a laptop with screenwriting software, a book, maybe a magazine, and untold pages of work done at the end of the night. When you look at it that way, working on personal things at work is the closest most of us come to getting paid to do what we love. I don’t think blogging qualifies, though. And while I am planning to try to do some actual writing after lunch, it’s nearly impossible. The atmosphere is all wrong. There is a focus I need that can’t be achieved with even occasional interruptions of Work-I’m-Being-Paid-to-do. And people. Too many people around. I need solitude. Public places are fine, they preserve personal anonymity. The real problem is co-workers. They know you, but they don’t know you, but they feel perfectly comfortable talking to you, sometimes much more than you’d like. It’s a very strange relationship. Aren’t my headphones a clear indication that I am busy? Or at least not to be disturbed for chit-chat? It seems, No. Because of that daily proximity, you can’t really be a jerk to them, or I can’t, even if I don’t like them. Regardless, their presence pulls me back into the setting of “workplace,” which is not an intrinsically creative one.
And now, here after five hours, after most of my day is gone, I’m taking a break. I’ve got first issue of my Creative Screenwriting Magazine subscription (which is supplemented by aforementioned podcast). Then, hopefully I’ll have a few more tasks to complete so I can feel some sense of worth, and hopefully I can end the day with some leisure reading. I think I saved a short story by Don DeLillo I could read.