Staying with friends is a good idea. Bonnie and Matt (it still feels weird to call them "The Teschs, " though I'm starting to get used to the idea that they're married) are wonderful and tolerant of Melness and ask good questions even if they're hard ones, and have the most comfortable air mattress I've ever slept on. And a guitar.

One of the nice things about staying with friends over staying in a hotel is that they keep me looped into a more-like-normal-person rhythm. "Mel, the glass of water in front of you that you just filled, you should... drink it." "Mel, have you had dinner?" "Mel, sleep is good for you." Should I stop reading and/or staring out the window? Go outside? Eat? As long as I follow Matt and Bonnie around, I can be confident that I'm adhering to some kind of reasonably humanoid life-script. Matt also has a tendency to occasionally look up 47 hours after starting work and go "oh, um... wait, have I had food yet?" - we worked together on projects in college and... well, the sleeping didn't happen quite as much as it perhaps should have - but Bonnie is quite good at countering that.

One of the things that Bonnie and I were talking about over dinner last night (as noted previously) were the books we liked as kids. I actually didn't fully get into my textbook (well, good textbook) phase until high school, though I'd occasionally ask for them for Christmas in middle school. Around 12 or 13 or so I went through a classic lit stage where I read - largely out of obligation - pretty much everything by Dickens and the Bronte sisters and Austen and et al, all the while going "these books would all be so much shorter if people in them just talked to each other."

Afterwards, I decided that I didn't really care to read them much again now that my "you should read these books" obligation had been discharged. Instead, I beelined for Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Heinlein, Ellison, Gibson - and went into my sci-fi/fantasy phase. I was also something of a Shakespeare nut in 6th grade, thanks to Mr. Panitch. And I went through a renaissance when I discovered good science and tech writing - Lewis Thomas, Alan Lightman, Richard Feynman, Neal Stephenson (In the Beginning was the Command Line - I still have not read Cryptonomicon.) I walked rapt through the hallways reading Darwin, unwilling to put down The Origin of Species, because my 12-year-old mind was floored by the concept that people could think this way, people could see this way, that all the aching beauty that I felt in numbers, figures, gizmos, textbooks, all that sense of play - was something that these people had also experienced, and more acutely and maturely than myself, and written down. Somehow they caught that feeling in their words, and when I read, I realized, comfortingly, that I was not alone.

I also went through this phase in my life, starting around the age of 11, where I read a lot of screenplays. To back up, for context: I grew up with a hearing loss. I rely largely upon lipreading. Television and film... do not work so well. (Except for foreign films, the one exception - those came with built-in subtitles.) It was around the time I was 10 or 11 or so that closed-captioning arrived in my neighborhood. Or more precisely, the next-door neighbors got a new TV that had it, and I would sometimes go and stand in their backyard just to watch the captions through their sliding glass porch door - hey, wow, these talking heads, they say things!

Once I caught onto the notion that films and TV shows could have interesting dialogue, and that this could be a factor in choosing them for entertainment (over visuals/special-effects/explosions, which was my previous criteria - Power Rangers, etc) I started to discover scripts for plays. And movies. I think it may have been a "screenplays" section in a bookstore or... I'm not sure exactly how or when I made the connection that Movies Have Scripts, and that Sometimes These Scripts Are Available, and that reading them beforehand gives me a pretty good idea of what the film is about and enables me to understand that film when I go watch it later (without captions, usually), but once it clicked, BAM.

I started reading screenplays - words that made you think in pictures (because I do think in pictures). I started writing them, and they were awful; instead of writing essays for my 6th grade English class, I opted whenever possible to make a film instead. I had no editing software or equipment other than a cheap tape camera... so these movies featured such advanced technologies as "rolling credits over background" == plastic wrap + sharpie being pulled up in front of the lens, and "in-scene music" == off-screen radio. One film - they were usually co-authored and co-filmed with my friend Becky - cast my brother Jason and her sister Molly as the villains (and then we wondered why they were reluctant to play their parts). Another was a fake documentary about a day in the life of my sign language interpreter. Another was a remake of The Three Little Pigs shot with stuffed animals instead. I also used Microsoft Paint to make an animated movie about... I think it may have been Malaysia. Or Singapore. Not sure exactly.

I was also rabid about special effects and props. If there was a "making-of" book for a movie I'd enjoyed, I would go to the bookstore and stand by the shelf and read it right there; I read about rendering the unique specular qualities of skin for Final Fantasy (bad movie, nifty tech) and how the Death Star battle sequences were filmed for Star Wars; I learned about stop-motion and body doubles and different sorts of shots and clever editing that could make things look real. How lightsabers were made and actors trained to fight and the "light" part of the lightsaber inserted in postproduction; how CG Treebeard was composited with mechatronic-hand-holding-hobbit-actors, how virtual hairdryers were attached to the feet of Shrek and Donkey so that the grass would part before their feet as they walked through a field. Even to this day I'll watch, say, Surf's Up with Audrey and then proceed to gawk over the handheld "camera" rig they made to give the film a documentary-style feel. It's storytelling-supporting magic, and I love storytelling.

I followed up on this in high school by doing A/V tech workstudy, successfully applying for that at a time when most of my classmates were doing things like wiping down cafeteria tables or whatnot. Learned the names of lots of plugs and cameras and interfaces (which I've since forgotten), lighting (which I'm decent at) and mics (which I'm really bad at, for obvious reasons - I have no basis on which to gauge the quality of my setup), did more editing in Adobe Premiere than I really care to remember, playing with the green screen. Didn't really have time to keep up with it, though, so it faded. I did 48-Hour Film Competition in college (with the Somervillains team - mostly as a storyboarder) but otherwise, that was... about it.

In terms of making, anyway. I will still read scripts and screenplays - sometimes because I'm in a bookstore and I'm bored, sometimes just for fun, sometimes because I'm going to a movie with friends without captioning and need to get the dialogue in my short-term memory first. It also works for plays. In fact, this is what I do before each summer's showing of Shakespeare on the Commons - I head to Project Gutenberg, print out the script in the tiniest font I'm able to read, read the script on the train on the way in, watch the play with friends, re-read the script on the way back... the three memories (two text, one show) overlap to produce a pretty good approximation. I'd also sit reading a movie script in the background when my friends were watching something in the lounge and I didn't want to bother them with subtitles.

It's also faster that way - I read faster than movies play. So sometimes I'll read a screenplay instead of watching a movie I'm not sure I will like. If I like the screenplay and can't imagine certain parts of the movie, then I'll watch the movie.

Away from Her is a great script. Now I just have to find the movie.