"I am at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be truly disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man."

31 December 2010

Throwaway the Year



"Is 'all right' special Timelord code for 'really not all right at all?'"
"Why?"
"'Cause I'm all right, too."

Agreeing with this post, I would like to offer a big FUCK. YOU. to this past year. January came and went leaving me jobless and stressed with a show. Oh yes, and began a still-ongoing purgatory of not knowing whether I can stay in my home as my landlords endeavor to sell the property. February graciously gave me a new job with friends who have become closer and co-workers who have become friends. As stressful and anti-what-I-want-from-life as it is, I think what I am most thankful for this year is that job.
March acted as March always does - a hellacious reign of suck, topped off by the death of my grandmother, my last grandparent and my closest non-immediate relative. Yeah.
April brought about my largest tax bill yet, which I will likely be paying off for another two years since despite having a steady paycheck filed under the correct status (and including benefits), I'm deeper in debt now than I ever have been before. May brought more suckiness, though for all its failings and being the first year I haven't been home for my birthday, or to my second home up north, my birthday itself begat an awesome party with awesome people. June and July were passable, and I got to see my mom which eased the not going home in May travesty a bit. August through early November saw the most intense, grueling, impassioned theatre project I've ever been involved in... and the following month and a half have been spent attempting to recover from those four months, along with insanely busy times at work and some of the most turbulent emotional issues I've tried to cope with in years.
Yeah. 2010, you sucked. Big time. I will not miss you at all.
Yet for all your screwing me and the rest of the world over, there are a few items I will remember fondly:
Previously mentioned new job and all the new and expanded friendships
This blog
A new Doctor who (very thankfully) is truly fantastic
The Huntington
Celebrations at the house -- and a house to have celebrations in
Friendship
Writing as an escape when I needed it most

So here's what I intend for 2011. Following with long-standing tradition I have a few goals, resolutions if you must:
Write more
Read more
Create more
Find more positivity in life
Trust my instincts more
Plus a couple I won't mention here

More than these goals, however, what I will endeavor to do is shake off this past year. The universe has ever-delighted in playing games with me and continually screwing over myself and those I care most about. What it is about me that carries the target for 'step on me, crush me, screw me over, and laugh all the while' which fate continues to hit with deadly accuracy I may never know. I do know this, though: whatever hell occurs, it can always get worse and instead of dealing with it or ignoring it, next year I intend to act in the form of my namesake, my astrological sign, and my general personality... I intend to fight back. I do not expect anything in my life to get easier or better; I've learned enough to know that's not my lot in life. However, as I've learned with time and progress and experience, being upset, depressed, accepting, etc. for me are unproductive emotions. Being pissed on the other hand, that gives me fire. It gives me energy and passion, planning and action.
2010, you fucked with me like no other. 2011, you're about to get fucked.

Yeah, that's my pep talk.

Happy Fucking New Year!

30 December 2010

Planes and Princes...

By a certain point in life, one sometimes believes they know themselves well enough; that random epiphanies and revelations occur only to later turn out as extensions of what we already know. Yet then the right set of ideas, circumstances, emotions and frame of mind align and we experience something we might have begun to think impossible: a new revelation about ourselves.
This revelation, however it happens, can occur due to a shattering life experience. However, though it may be through my own limited experience of the world and the people I know, often these revelations come at the oddest and seemingly most mundane times. One such revelation emerged piece by piece over the past week, though the bulk of it formed over the course of plane trips to and from my hometown for the holidays. While it's too personal a revelation to speak of right now, too close to my emotional core, for the sake of expanding on the randomness of revelation I'll elaborate a tad on what concepts and items of inspiration led to the ultimate realization.
The holidays, as we grow up, fire within many of us deep rooted memories, emotions, familial ties, traditions -- whether good or bad, we constantly grapple with the past and either fight or strive to work towards or against that past. I have yet to meet anyone who treats the holiday season with complete ambivalence, and if I ever do I'm likely to even chalk that emotion up to influences from their past. Combine this with the stress of life, work, money, relationships, adulthood -- all those things we deal with on a daily basis -- amplified by the rush and fervor of the season and it's already a cocktail for examination of our lives.
Flying always causes a certain amount of reflection for me, mostly because I'll think of anything to keep me from focusing on the miraculous and always potentially horrific science and luck that allows us to fly. It's one of those commonalities of modern life which I refrain from contemplating too much lest I go mad with the knowledge of all that can go wrong.
The final unexpected ingredient in the revelation cocktail is reading. As I get older I have this horrendous habit of seeing reading not as a necessity, a productive activity which spurs on my mind and endeavours through enjoyment and enlightenment, but a time consuming activity which yields less than more important activities like paying bills, doing laundry, overworking myself, looking at facebook, and speed-watching TV. Erroneous and ludicrous a concept as that is, it's a trap I find myself in more and more these past few years. Then I pick up a book and invest myself in reading it and I realize once again how insane I've been for ever seeing reading as a chore, or worse, an utterly unproductive activity.
This particular trip I chose the first in a series of novels on Plantagenet England and Wales, Here Be Dragons. An historical and imaginative novel, it chronicles the story of kings Richard and his brother John, their kin, and the parallel stories of Llewellyn Fawr and his kin -- centering primarily around Llewellyn's story and his marriage to John's illegitimate daughter. The story and characters fed into sections of my mind and emotions I hadn't allowed myself access to in a long time, and as a result, in combination with all other factors, caused me to stumble headlong into my newest revelation.
It's comforting and terrifying at this juncture to realize myself still capable of discovering new aspects of myself and the world around me. Even more than that, it's inspiring.

21 December 2010

Holiday Stress Relief

Most people know that, for various and sundry reasons, the holiday season presses down on us with stress like an older brother presses down on a head-locked sibling. Far from having immunity to these stresses, this week I am exceptionally grateful for not only my office co-workers, but for our newfound form of stress relief thanks to a holiday party gift exchange. During the exchange, filled with fighting and yelling and cajoling over a myriad of cool items (and booze), one item landed itself blessedly into the hands of one of the office staff. Since its arrival on Friday, two other staffers, myself included, have run out to their nearest big box retailer to purchase this ultimate tool in stress relief:















Since Friday afternoon this little toy has brought untold joy and excitement to more than half the staff. We've had shooting competitions involving everything from moving ducks drawn on white boards to targeting by facing backwards with a mirror to straight out regular skill and luck. And yes, shooting these little buggers has a bit to do with luck. It's not an exact science. However, for such an affordable source of fun (and with a few modifications which are already being executed -- and some personal decorating which will happen soon), one can excuse the lack of a completely accurate, scientific and logistical method to firing off several rounds of this magnificent little time waster.

Some offices have pool and Foosball. Some even have arcade games. We have Nerf guns, and damned if we don't have just as much fun with our little six-shooters as any group of kids (or college students playing humans vs. zombies) would.

15 December 2010

Dreamy Writing

After almost a week of dreams involving nothing but work (grading, proctoring, answering phones that never stop ringing... it's just like being there only worse) and traffic (when you live in a major Metro area with a two-hour daily commute, you will occasionally dream about traffic *sigh*), between 5:40 and 6:30 yesterday morning I experienced the most uplifting dream -- about writing.
I basically got a pep talk from an unexpected source who encouraged me to write and write and write, while said source made me food. I had needs being taken care of by someone other than myself AND encouragement to do what I love. This is something I am so not used to that when my alarm went off I did that thing we do when we want a dream to linger. I smacked the alarm off, leaned back in bed, closed my eyes, sighed and tried to re-envision any and all parts of the dream. More importantly I tried to hold on to the feelings it stirred in me. On the surface those feelings held out until about twenty minutes into my day at work, but in a deeper, more hidden place those feelings took hold. If they had not, I believe I would not be sitting here writing right now.
Whatever theories exist on dreams and their meanings and effect on our conscious mind, the fact remains that when a dream impacts you deeply in any way, you can use that dream and its associated feelings. Channeling those emotions and thoughts can lead to great and terrible ideas and actions, but ignoring the power of them ignores a primal aspect of our emotional and mental make-up. For me as a writer, to ignore the tales my subconscious spins is like ignoring the lighting ideas which strike without warning and the most random times. Inspiration comes in only so many forms and we have to grab it where we can.
So thanks, dream buddy, for instilling a little more writer's courage in me... and for making me realize I deserve (and may even need) someone in my life who is that supportive. There's been far too much 'me' time in my head lately. Time to let others inside there to rummage around a bit.

14 December 2010

Open Heart, Insert Fist... then remove and move on.

It's amazing what occurs in our minds when faced with realizations and information to major questions we've been coping with for months. Sometimes what we feel might most damage us when our worst possible (or close to it) imaginings come to pass turns out to, in the end, only make us chuckle, shake our head, think, "I knew it," and prepare to carry on. When you've already prepared yourself for the worst in your mind over and over again and dealt time after time with the emotional beatings of what that final piece of information will do to destroy you, you may have already processed that poor piece of news without realizing. Thus when the time comes to hear and accept that information you're much better equipped having already imagined the scenario, as well as experiencing satisfaction at finally having a semi-definitive answer.
I'm not talking about horrendous life happenings like losing a loved one or getting news about health or any sudden, unexpected wretched news. I mean those situations and desires we build up in our minds and psyches to the point they nearly drive us mad. All we want is an answer, preferably something to give us hope or even more, but you reach a point where the answer matters more than the desire ever did. For me, a curious thing has occurred: I got the answer, not a surprising one yet certainly not the one I wanted; yet while I won't pretend to be happy about it, there's a satisfaction in just having any answer and since I already played out the seeming inevitability of emotional destruction in my mind, repeatedly, instead of feeling crushed (which I do a bit, let's be honest, we never like not getting what we want and believe we need) there's a sense of freedom. Almost power. The situation no longer needs to control me; I can control it and how I react to it from here on out.
I never expected to feel so empowered by devastation, and there may be some lesson on my personal psychology in there, but I've never been much for psychoanalysis. All I know is that I thought I would be broken, and while there will be some breaking and scar tissue formations to come I am sure, right now I feel not just able to cope but to overcome.

13 December 2010

"When I figure out what that means I'll come up with a crushing reply."

If I could only work my head around and/or through some Serious Life Thoughts, I might be able to regain a sense of my Writer's Voice and Purpose. Right now I'm swimming in a sea of emotional and mental fog of my own, combined with my sympathetic tendencies entangling me in the turmoil of others, some of whom I can help but am not allowed to for various reasons, and others of whom I just cannot.
These past several weeks have once again shown me all the downsides of being a semi-social, impeccably internal, deeply sympathetic over-thinker. It's the over thinking aspect which kills the ability to write. Everything else could, feasibly, be a trigger for writing, something to spur me on or provide inspiration. Instead, all these swirling thoughts cause me to be mired in an eternal battle inside my head where I go over detail after detail, concept after concept and arrive at less of a conclusion than I began with -- it's like living in between the foggy words of Heart of Darkness in my head.
Not nearly as appealing as it may sound to writers and bibliophiles...

07 December 2010

"That would be cool if you were actually hot."

Succeeded but not happy with what was accomplished during NaNoWriMo. This I knew would happen, and I'm not at all upset that I tried, I just have that perfectionist drive that is disappointed I didn't overcome everything in life to write The Book of Awesome.

Closed a show and then nearly passed out from exhaustion for almost three weeks following.
Yeah... need to try and never do that again unless I'm being paid Fair Market Value for my skills.

Gained and then lost all ability to be creative, thereby causing an emotastic funk which I'm still trying to work out of... to little success thus far.

Had one pop culture reference slip through my brain and immediately felt a surge to do nothing but watch TV and movies for weeks on end to regain a sense that my title of Pop Culture Maven stays deserved. Have yet to give in to this impulse, but it's terribly difficult.

Experiencing Deep Thoughts about life, most of which are sobering and in no way inspiring for creativity or anything other than drowning my sorrows in staring into space whenever given the chance.


This is a girl who needs to get motivated, find positivity in her life, and get the hell out of L.A. for a while to regain a sense of the world at large and not this insane melting pot of crazy which breeds Emo like mold breeds itself.

04 November 2010

NaNoWTFMo

Now that it's November, and the interwebs make communication amongst the (typically) hermitic world of writers, an explosion of thoughts, articles, pep-talks and put-downs flit about the nets regarding National Novel Writing Month.
I've already expressed how valuable I've found NaNo and why I think it can benefit anyone even remotely interested in the idea of it. So this little rant comes about due to several of the nay-saying articles which, so far, have one glaring issue in common: people dissing on the NaNo have not participated in the project -- or at least haven't admitted to it. And really, this is NOT one of those instances where you'd say, "Well, I've never leaped from a tall building to the ground without any safety measures in place, but I know it's a bad idea on principle." Everyone has their own unique method of writing, and a lot of writers nowadays are more flexible in their method because we have to be. It's pretty much a requirement of the digital age to have a basic grasp of most major social media platforms, typing and design programs, and online resources (including marketing tools). With that in mind, I find it in poor taste to degrade a program that not only exposes people to all these tools in one place, but does so much more. Yes, the word count goal can result in a lot of crap writing. Yes, people who start out on this crash diet form of writing frenzy can't all be expected to succeed. Yes, the likelihood that anyone's first draft from a NaNoWriMo project will ever be published is next to zero. However, here's a few items NaNoWriMo provides, in a central place, that NO OTHER WRITING PROGRAM DOES:

A central site where those undertaking this endeavor can not only find resources, advice and fin distractions, they can find SUPPORT.
Those of us nuts enough to participate, especially more than once, understand we're crazy, and so is anyone who attempts this -- but we're crazy and stressed and freaked out and crazy TOGETHER. NaNoWriMo participants are incredibly understanding and supportive, which can go a long way to inspiring you to keep going when you're ready to give up.

Giving up your life for a month to write is not as bad as giving it up to watch TV or movies or torture small animals. You may not be writing the Best Novel Ever, and you may leave things like dishes and laundry and your social life by the wayside for a few weeks, but for people who constantly do those (and so many more) activities to the extent they never have time to write, NaNo gives them the time, and the freedom, to turn on their writing brains. And at the end, win or lose, whatever you've written is more than you had at the start of the month and THAT is something worthwhile.

The idea of NaNo is not to have a COMPLETE novel, but a workable draft.
And you know what? Some people take decades to finish their first workable draft. That's great for those people, but not all of us have that kind of time. NaNoWriMo give you permission to go to town with all your wacky ideas, to vomit all over the page (or keyboard), to create and destroy as many characters as you choose -- and then fix it all LATER. Yes, a lot of crap gets written, but anyone serious about writing knows every draft of any important writing gets revised multiple times. In turning off that little editing voice in your head, you are free to think up the wildest scenarios possible, get them down, and then go back at a different time to make the wildness sensible.

If not now - when?
The most common argument I get from people about not participating in NaNo is, "I don't have the time." (Close second: I'm afraid. See advice next.) Last year I was stage managing a show through all of November. Tech week was the first week of NaNo. I worked 16 hour days for that week, and generally working seven days a week all month. I caught a plague cold which I probably should have gone to the ER for, and even now I don't really remember any of opening weekend for the show. My brain was full of crap about the show and my theatre company and my sucky job. I didn't think I'd ever be able to complete NaNo. Guess what? I did. I almost did not, but I made a push in the 27th hour and made it through. Even had I not 'won' last year, I would still be proud that I took the time and effort to dedicate myself to writing during such an insane time -- because if I hadn't have done it then, I may not ever have done it. The time excuse never flies with me; you have it in you to put as much or as little time as you're able into this project and giving yourself permission to write now will only help you do the same later.

I'm afraid!
Of what? Of not being able to hit 50,000 words in 30 days? So what? Write. Just write. And write. As much as you can, even if you think it sucks, even when you know your plot is not connecting and your characters are running away from you. Keep going. That fear and panic you're experiencing is normal and natural. Embrace it. Work with it. The only person who will ever really suffer if you give into your fear and don't write is you. The words you write today may not be there next month or next year, so stop worrying about if they're the best words and just write them down. You can always change them later. December later. Or much later. Point is, there is nothing to be afraid of except not writing.

Otherwise, you might as well just stop writing all together -- because brilliant writers, editors and publishers know, "There are already more than enough novels out there -- more than those of us who still read novels could ever get around to poking our noses into, even when it's our job to do so."
Thus, as the astute LA Times columnist Carolyn Kelloggpoints out:Well let's just call it quits on culture then, if there's enough. Also, people. There are more than enough people on the planet. Everyone, please stop making them.

Yeah... I'm going to go back to my 'useless' writing now, as I've spent too many words on this Very Important Blog which advises people to be productive rather than tears them down for trying to be so.

28 October 2010

Blogger's Block

In the past several days I've made multiple attempts at blog entries which have yet to grace anyone's screen but my own. Most revolve around horror movies/shows, one about writing, one about utterly random crap. Each one contains about two sentences I like and the rest, to me, look like Stephenie Meyer's high school paper reject articles. I'm making an assumption here, but anyone who's read more than two pages of a Twilight book without eyes clouded by sparkly descriptions of Edward's luscious lips and golden-melted-topaz-butterscotch eyes should understand how someone with an English degree feels about their writing with that comparison. I get all these seemingly great ideas in my head and then the minute I sit in front of the screen to type them out they seem pointless and lame. With the blogverse being vast and saturated with utter crap, I don't want to be another person adding to it. Anxiety begets uncertainty which begets a mental block which begets self doubt, and before you know it there are 600 words before you, less than 100 feel usable and now the whole concept of this entry feels like a massive waste of your time -- so how could anyone else want to read it?
This, dear readers, is what keeps many writers silent. The fear and powerlessness we feel when releasing our formed ideas into the world for anyone to judge. Though often our own worst critics, the internet excels at bringing out people who find new ways to terrify everyone including reclusive, schizo, miserable writers who just want someone to be (positively) affected by their writing. Writers are huge cowards. It's what keeps us trapped in the land of first drafts that never become final drafts. It's why we hold on to submissions which never leave the 'to be sent' drawer.
So here's where I make a request of both writer and reader. To readers I say this: next time you feel the urge to leave a negative comment on someone's blog about their opinion, think about how you'd feel if someone responded to you the way you're responding -- if someone has opinions you disagree with or a writing style you abhor, that's fine, but it's no reason to assault them with words from the safety of your computer screen. For writer's I say this: don't be afraid to post your thoughts, even when you think they are stupid or redundant, because in order to find your own voice you have to keep exercising it. Now, this isn't to give license to either side to be douchey and spiteful or to attack without educated and/or experiential reason. All I'm saying is writers are as insecure as any creative type, and yes criticism can be helpful, but writers shouldn't be afraid to write for fear of having their ideas shot down, and readers should acquaint themselves with models of respectful argument when criticising another's work.
Basically...
Writers: Have courage and say what you feel, even if you think it's stupid at the time.
Readers: Feedback and contrasting opinions are great, just try to be constructive.
Everyone: DON'T BE A DICK.

UPDATED:
I feel very comforted when one of my favorite bloggers experiences similar issues with blogger's block and/or feelings of fear and inadequacy over their writing. We all want to have the most awesome, wonderful, thought-provoking or at the very least, entertaining, blogs ever. all. the. time. Yet sometimes you just have to get drunk and say, "Fuck it, I'm blogging while drunk because the interwebs tell me it's awesome." And so you do. And then this happens.
And while there are (often Anonymous) jackasses who will never adhere to the 'don't be a dick' Rule of Life, there are also people out there who appreciate the candor, and amusement, the occasional insecure DrunkBlog can provide.

26 October 2010

Everywhere Mom

Know what's more terrifying than a demon trying to destroy your house and family? Anne Marie-Duff as John Lennon's incest-leaning mother.

Don't get me wrong, overall Nowhere Boy is a good flick with solid acting, great tunes, minus a lot of the idolizing and romanticising us Yanks tend to infuse our biopics with. All the young actors do well, especially the kid playing Lennon and Thomas Sangster (who's now added 'Brodie' to his screen titles, which I don't get) as Paul. Both Kristin Scott-Thomas and David Morrissey fulfill their roles with proper 'don't hog the spotlight' performances. Yet Anne Marie-Duff... I mean, yeah she's a bit of a cougar in real life, though who wouldn't be if you get to be married to this man:

but the incestuous overtones added to her portrayal of Lennon's mother gives all new meaning to the term 'creepifying.'


See? Even young Johnny looks creeped out by her...

Necessary Writing Tools

No, I'm not talking about silly things like ideas and time and grammar books and spell check. I mean those necessities that one requires to start and/or keep writing once the momentum hits -- The tools and baubles and trinkets that help in the process of emptying your soul on paper (or onto a computer screen).
As November draws ever closer, blog posts may either diminish or increase as I spend time beating my head against the wall for plot ideas or procrastinating putting those said ideas into action. Whatever the case, it is likely more posts about writing, the process, the blocks, the tools, the frustrations and the distractions will continue.
For me, I can adapt, when needed, to different writing conditions. Due to this, my needs for successful writing time can vary, especially in regards to external (or lack thereof) stimuli. Also, as a broke-ass writer, some amenities I would very much like and think would benefit me are currently out of my grasp (and I'm not just talking about a massively cushy leather chair or an on-call masseur, though that would be more than handy and, I'm told, a freebie if you're in a relationship with a really good, caring and understanding person). Still, some items remain essential to me for writing, at least the bulk of the time:

A notepad and good pen/pencil -- 'good' being defined in any writing implement which doesn't smudge or clog easily, flows across the page, and which feels comfortable in my hand. Sometimes I like colors: purple, green, brown, and even red. Most of the time I stick with black or graphite. The notepad tends to be a moleskin-like book around the 4x6 size, with lines and a hard cover. Paper quality needs to be thick enough that if I happen to start scribbling with an extra-fine marker it won't bleed through the pages. Whatever it is, I tend to snag it on impulse following the "I'll know it when I see it" logic of crazy shoppers. It then rides around in my bag/purse all the time, because you never know when a moment of inspiration, or simply a moment free to write, will occur.

Tea -- lots of it, usually hot. So many times I wish I had a portable microwave/stove/hot plate to go everywhere to make for an endless supply of hot tea. It's frustrating to force myself up from a writing perch (or slouch), stumble downstairs, put the kettle on, wait for the boil, then steep and mix (if applicable) and trudge back up to my imprinted spot of mattress or seat and try to regain my train of thought. Still, it's better than not having tea at all. Tea is life.

A comfy seat -- though not always possible when writing on the go (or at work, or in a cafe, or between cues during a show), ideally I need a place I can curl up with my laptop or notepad and write for long periods without needing to move (unless it's to get more tea). This is probably an area where I'm most adaptable so long as I have tea and music to keep me focused, however I'm longing to test out my new-to-me (freebie) cushy leather office chair this November. On it, I can perch cross-legged -- comfortably -- and be at the ideal height for typing.
Now if I could only get my desk cleaned off...

Background Noise -- one of those necessities which varies depending on my mood. Sometimes I need the low thrum of the TV on a random channel (Food Network, Travel Channel and History International work well). Occasionally I require a specific show or movie for thematic and/or mood purposes. More than either of these, I require music. While my novelling counterpart favors goth rock (very suited to our material) and dark symphonic scores (again, good choice), I tend towards one of three styles: symphonic scores and instrumentals (though not always dark ones), Celtic-flavored music (it's in my blood), or pop music. Why, when writing about angst-ridden teens and vampires (who never sparkle unless bursting into flames, and that's more of a bright torch than a Sephora shine) I sometimes require the dulcet tones of "It's Britney, bitch," or "It's tearin' up my heart when I'm with you," I may never know. Though, looking at that last lyric, taken literally pop music can be very gruesome. Still, it likely has more to do with relying on favored styles of music than anything else. When I'm not digging for inspiration or requiring intellectual stimulation, I go for comfort.

Distractions -- I'm not referring to co-workers chatting incessantly around you, or people in the cafe gossiping on their cell phones loud enough for all to hear, or the neighborhood lawn and construction guys teaming up all at once to assault your eardrums, or a friend texting you incessantly... I'm talking about entertaining distractions like online games, reading up on the suffering of fellow writers, stalking people and plotting out your next meal as though you had time to cook. While time-sucking is a major danger when writing, sometimes you need to absent yourself from the pad or the screen for a bit, ignore that blinking cursor which taunts you night and day with untapped potential, and feed yourself with silliness for a few minutes in order to recharge your brain. I find that while we all have our problem addictions when it comes to distractions, if you find the distractions that only drag your focus away for 10-15 minutes every now and again, productivity can increase. I say, 'can,' however and that doesn't always translate to 'does.' Though for me without the occasional intentional distraction my concentration fades after about an hour... sometimes less.

These are my essentials for writing with gusto -- what are yours?

25 October 2010

Demons Hate Pool Cleaners

Ten things I learned from Paranormal Activity 2 (a midnight showing, because it makes a difference -- especially when there are guys in the audience commenting on how they won't sleep that night)...
Overall, I enjoyed the sequel/prequel -- and yes it is both -- though it didn't leave me as disturbed as the original. However, I think midnight screenings with a close friend add to the descarifying of horror movies. It's a much more interactive experience to see a horror film late at night in a packed house. Screams mix with laughter and the world in front of you seems a little less dark. Still, I know I had freaky dreams from the craziness, and I'm sure I'm not alone.
Also, way to trick us marketing people on the film. You get points for that, though you lose them all for putting some of the most surprising/freaky (freakprising?) stuff in the new TV spots.

Beware the SPOILERS







Demons hate pool cleaners -- Why? No one knows. Perhaps they thrive in stagnant, de-chlorinated water. Or maybe they're just allergic to chlorine.

Hanging kitchen implements from racks is a BAD idea -- Doesn't matter if it's knives on magnetized blocks or pots and pans hanging over your breakfast island; your kitchen is dangerous enough as it is, don't tempt fate.

Dogs bark at a lot of senseless stuff, but that doesn't make them dumber than you -- Also, when your dog goes apeshit in the middle of the night then has a 'stroke' for no reason, you may not want to leave anyone in the house alone.

Never walk outside your house when you hear a knock and no one's at the door -- This is just good advice for life in general.

Don't fall asleep in front of the TV -- Has Poltergeist taught us nothing?

Listen to your superstitious household staff -- at least when weird shit starts to occur in your home. You may not believe in their hoo-doo (and it may not exist), but them praying and flashing around a few burnt herbs in your home definitely isn't going to hurt anything.

When you get locked out of your house by a mysterious entity, it helps to check ALL the footage of the house -- I mean, your dad may think the wind blew the door closed behind you, making you seem like an idiot teenager, but it's hard to ignore evidence of your baby brother being dragged out of his crib and wandering around the house at 11pm. And yet...

Teenagers aren't always as dumb as you may think, even in horror movies -- the smart ones, they may be the only ones to make it out alive. For now.

Don't have male children, especially if you come from an affluent family -- sorry to get gender specific, but if any relative makes a pact with an evil entity for wealth, power, happiness, etc. anyone who has kids in that family (potentially for generations to come) runs the risk of possession.

When all else fails, be sure to pawn off your horrible fate on other family members -- it's what good people do for each other. Of course, do that and your chances of dying via neck-snapping increase exponentially (which is no less than you deserve).

19 October 2010

"Benevolent bad-assery. It’s what’s for dinner."

Via Writer's Digest on Twitter, through the magic of LiveJournal, the interwebs brought this article on life after high school, writing, education and the like. It needs to be read by anyone in high school, or who went to high school, or... well, has lived.
As someone who exited high school, with supportive parents, entering what I thought would be a pit-stop at my local college on a road to bigger and better schools and experiences and ended up staying there for five years, I can say that 'life happens' applies to myself as well -- and all of us.
I honestly believe everything Libba Bray says in her post is true and applicable, especially to young creative types, but really to everyone. The pressure our faster-better-more-NOW, climb to the top and don't worry about who you step on, technology is god and we need to feed it and praise it with our time, money and energy every second of the day, puts on everyone is mind-boggling. Add to that the pressures of peers, friends, family, co-workers, anyone we come into contact with who think they know what's best for our lives... it's a wonder we don't all crack up and spend some quality time in a padded room alternating between fetal-positioned comatose states and fits of maniacal screaming.
However, it's not like there's a roadmap to life, as Libba states and many others have before her. Whatever wool society tries to pull over our eyes, no one has the answers to what makes for a successful, happy, productive life -- because each of those terms mean something different to every individual person. And those ideas can change as we get older and gain in experience because we are ever-changing creatures. What sounded like the Best Life Ever in high school can change in a few short years -- or not. While I thought I knew myself and everything about who I was and how I wanted to be and the life I wanted to have my senior year in high school, come four years later I'd lost it all. Now, in my late twenties, I'm (in many ways) more confused than ever. I champion anyone who knows what they want and goes for it, because it didn't work out for me and I now don't know what I truly want anymore.
Yet would I sacrifice the relationships I've formed, the experience I've gained, the life I've lived to go back and try again? Some days, yes. When I really stop and consider the most important people in my life and how they've changed me for the better, the answer is 'no.'
I'm still stumbling along, map and compass-less, on the road to growing up and maddening as it is I know I'm not alone. I also have faith in the universe, and myself, that when I discover what I want to be when I grow up, achieving that -- whatever it is -- will be possible. Because I'm a fighter. Benevolent bad-assery is actually a specialty of mine.
And whatever I decide to do, or whatever life throws at me, I know writing will be a part of it because when everything else is stripped away from me (and it has been before -- or at least it felt that way), the one aspect of self that never leaves is my drive to write, to create, to shoot my little fingers off expressing the words and thoughts constantly swirling (often screaming) in my head.

I also know a good number of people who make really good snacks and rate high on the Share-O-Meter when it comes to snacks. People who give you snacks, and tea, are worth keeping in your life no matter where you find them.

Horror, Horror Everywhere!

Makes me a cheery Goth.

On a random venture to the ATM this past weekend I decided to take a stroll down the local drag since it has been months since I did so. Imagine my surprise, delight and abject fear for my finances at discovering that two new stores stood side by side in dangerous luring. The first, a store for writers, I managed to keep from flying into like a chocoholic passing a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (though rest assured my resistance will not last long). The second drew me in through its portal of horrific awesome and held me with talons of terror.
Previously located about an additional half-mile further from me than the new location, I eschewed Dark Delicacies only because I knew it would get me into trouble, fiscally that is. Still, a bibliophile can only resist the siren call of books for so long before succumbing to their entrancing song and crashing ourselves on the rocks of debt in order to feed our addiction. Thus, though I entered with a steeled demeanor, I was no match for the pleadings emanating from tomes on the shelves.
However, I do not regret venturing into this fabled land of the Gothic as it rewarded me with two wonderful books (and a third I will purchase very soon). The first is an autographed first edition of Mansfield Park and Mummies (which you may recall me gushing about previously), the second is a Dracula-related teen novel (yes, I need another one; I need them all) I'd never heard of -- which is saying something.
Though I missed a signing on Sunday due to an intense headache brought on by too much theatre, I do know that Dark Delicacies can depend upon me to wander its floor and continue singing its praises plenty in the coming months.

18 October 2010

Crazy Drivin'

"Is there a specific song or band that makes you yearn for the past?"








Interesting this should arise as a writing prompt after I finally caught myself up on Glee for this season. The "Britney/Brittany" episode brought back oh-so-many memories and has driven me to a pop music bender... this also coincides with the impending arrival of one of my oldest and dearest friends who's coming for a visit, and is my long-standing partner in loving pop music.
In high school the two of us got about twenty people in our choir to do shoulder and head rolls NSync style for warm-ups. Every day. For over a year -- and that is only the tip of our Popberg. Any other divulgences might land both of us in societal exile until well into our thirties. Still, I would not have us any other way. I mean, she may be more socially acceptable and even crazier, but there's not a big gap between Lady GaGa and Britney. Just because Justin Timberlake has finally been accepted by the darker-toned musicians he always adored doesn't erase nearly six years of stardom he experienced with four exceptionally talented white boys. Even Mandy Moore whose music has evolved exponentially and transformed almost completely from her popstar days is voicing the main character in a Disney animated film. Just because you 'grow up' doesn't mean you have to grow out of love with the music and culture of your youth.
So yeah, the Freaky Dracula Girl with a penchant for singer-songwriters and Celtic music is a Pop fiend. Pick a decade of the 20th century, and I'll tell you all about my favorite pop songs from that era. For hours if you let me.
It's another reason I adore the British -- they don't shy away from pop music and its cultural effects, they embrace it.
Thus, in honor of this well-timed prompt, my friend's approaching visit, and my Gleekiness, the following is a list of my favorite songs from the Sugar Pop heyday of 1996-2002:

Britney Spears - Anticipating
It's hard to choose just one Britney song from this period, and really anything from her third album, Britney, is poptastic funness. Though this is what triggered the beginning of crazy, scary, weird, bonkers Brit the music is fun and catchy. 'Anticipating' is one of the best jams to get your butt off whatever it's parked on and doing some serious dancing/cardio.

Spice Girls - Stop
A single in the UK but never in the US, this Motown-inspired tune has a dance which I am convinced the choreographer stole from my friend and I. It's eerie how close it is to what we just made up one afternoon jamming to Spiceworld (something I am known to occasionally still do...).

5ive - When the Lights Go Out
British boyband? Yes, please. 'When the Lights Go Out' took all the innuendo in other pop songs of the time and kicked it up a notch. Leave it to the Brits.

Hanson - Where's the Love
Talk about evolution... Hanson's first album contained a few truly Pop gems, but also even then expressed their Rock and Roll meets Motown roots. Their most recent album is a more full-circle endeavor, returning to those roots with a more polished, older sound. Still, Middle of Nowhere remains one of my favorite albums (even if they do sound like chipmunks compared to how they sound now) and 'Where's the Love' stands as my favorite song on that album.

Christina Aguilera - Somebody's Somebody
I picked a slow song! While Christina's first album doesn't contain the gravity of later works (or the dirrt), it's still a great Pop album by a powerhouse vocalist. 'Somebody's Somebody' is one of the most understated tunes on the record and while overshadowed by the dancey tunes like 'Come On Over Baby' (another favorite of mine and a scary earworm), it really showcases Christina's ability to hold steady with that instrument of hers.

Savage Garden - I Don't Know You Anymore
Australian hottie duo best known for 'I Want You.' Their Euro-pop sound hit at the right time and though the first album is pretty solid for that genre, it's the second album that elevated their musical chops. The only other ballad on this list, 'I Don't Know You Anymore' is a beautiful piano-driven stripped-down song that shows all the producing and electronica in the world can't really compete with good lyrics, a haunting melody and a steamy voice.

Mandy Moore - Turn the Clock Around
While I still adore 'Candy' as the pop gem it is, and the almost unheard-of 'Your Face' is hauntingly beautiful, Mandy really started to show her deviation from pop towards more folky, deeper music with her self-titled third album. While still very poppy, there's a lot of evolution evident in only two years from her debut. 'Turn the Clock Around' is bittersweet yet upbeat and showcases her ability to blend Pop with strong lyrics at a young age.

NSync - I Drive Myself Crazy (Thinking of You)
Honestly, forcing myself to choose one NSync song is like pulling emotional teeth. There's about four cover songs, several major hits, the entirety of No Strings Attached and a slew of other tunes which I adore more that any of the other songs on this list (except for maybe 'Where's the Love'). Still, when it comes to it, the song I have more versions of than any other and still listen to on a weekly basis is this one. And apologies to Chris, but the European version with JC on leads for the first verse trumps the US recording. However, the video is probably also my favorite from this time period. More than Britney's 'Baby One More Time' or Mandy Moore's 'Walk Me Home' or Hanson's 'Weird' (yes, it was directed by THAT Gus Van Sant). There's so much personality and entertainment value to be had in this video -- proof that the boys never took themselves too seriously which you need in that kind of position. Plus, JC gives a whole new hotness dimension to strapped-down psychos.

Honourable Mentions:
Daniel Bedingfield, Backstreet Boys, Jessica Simpson, Madonna, BBMak, J Lo, 98 Degrees, SoulDecision

Now I'm thinking soon there will be an accompanying list on the evolution of some of these artists (and solo careers in some cases) since their days of ruling Popdom.

15 October 2010

The Dark Tower 'Fairy Tale' Casting

Trolling around the 'new' IMDB (but not being a troll), I decided to see what message board activity existed for the Dark Tower Multimedia Project of Epicness. After stumbling on a casting choice for Eddie I hadn't thought of -- that almost caused me to wet myself and scream with glee, and then curl into a fetal position because it's likely they'll pick, say, Ryan Reynolds *gag* -- I decided I should put some thought into my ideal casting. Just because, you know, I like having my hopes dashed by Hollywood politics. This post will be expanded upon as I think of other ideal (for me) candidates.

Roland (Contemporary) - Viggo Mortensen
Hugh Jackman LOOKS the part, and lord knows plenty of people don't mind looking at that man for hours and hours on end, but the ability to carry the entire series on his shoulders with the grizzled depth required... I don't think he can pull that off. Viggo's a no-brainer -- he's got the look, the talent, the depth, the proven ability to carry an epic undertaking like this. Hell, I think the question isn't whether they'd want him to do it, but whether HE'D want to do it.
Otherwise they should just wait another 5-10 years and have Karl Urban and Christian Bale duke it out.

Eddie - Ben Foster
Thank you IMDB board for that one. Now all I will ever want is him in that role and there's a snowball's chance it will happen. (Of course now someone's also said Joseph Gordon-Levitt... oh, wait...)

Roland (Young) - Joseph Gordon-Levitt
He may be pushing the age, but he still looks like such a baby it would work. Plus he's got the intensity and depth necessary for making that section of the story powerful and believable -- something I'm not certain an actual 18 year-old could pull off. And if they could throw in a zero-gravity, balletic fight scene in old-west-style clothes, so much the better.

Susan Delgado - Karen Gillan*
*Not 100% sold
She'd have to be blondied-up, but given the choice between her and any number of blonde (or pretend-blonde) Hollywood tartlets... yeah, Karen's got it. Hands down. Not that I want to see Amy Pond put through that kind of hell, but Karen's gorgeous, spunky, smart, and has the 'it' factor of making you want to watch her.
If only one could reverse time and steal Rosamund Pike when she was 16-18, that would be perfect. Or Jewel Staite.

Cort - Mickey Rourke
I've seen some ideas floating that he should be Randall Flagg, but that makes Flagg too creepy without any appeal. There has to be something about Flagg that draws you in, even though you know nothing about him is good. Cort on the other hand is just a grizzled, old bad-ass, which Rourke could do in his sleep.

Walter/Flagg - Colm Feore
Again, thank you IMDB board. Not only has he god the unsettling-yet-appealing freaktastic thing down to a science, crossover be damned he KNOWS how to do this brand of King evil. Ever see Storm of the Century? Scarred for life, in the best way.
"I'm a little teapot, short and stout..."

Susannah - ???
Of all characters, this one gets the 'fucked if I know' award. The complexity involved in being an African-American schizophrenic, wheelchair-bound heroine with deathly accurate aim and a soft spot for redeemed screw-ups... to put any established actress in this will lose some pivotal aspect of her due to pre-existing habits and ticks. Whoever plays Susannah needs to disappear into her entirely, and that's going to take a face we haven't seen much/any of before.

Stephen King - DUH
Incidentally, his appearance on Sons of Anarchy is probably his best acting work to date.
And if he's not Rick Baker-ed to the extreme for the young appearance, use Joe. He looks plenty like his poppa.

In other random movie news, apparently Cameron wants to prove he can single-handedly destroy own the movie industry by making a Cleopatra movie with Angelina Jolie.
Quick, let's get Brad in on this. It did such wonders for Liz and Dick...

14 October 2010

Mullholloween

Anyone in the LA area who must commute daily from the east valley to anywhere on the west side knows what a clustermess it is right now. Every avenue of getting over the hill and to any area within a three-mile radius of the 405 is completely backed up. I've left my home at 7:40, 7:30, 7:20, 7:15... no matter when in that window I leave, no matter what route I take, my morning commute lasts 75-90 minutes. Every day. The same commute home rarely takes more than 45.
This morning I attempted one of my remaining two avenues of 'escape' from these horrors. Reduced driving time to about 55 minutes, which is comparable to life prior to bridges being demolished and school being back in session. The elation at a possible alternative (that doesn't leave me wanting to take a high-caliber automatic weapon to 98% of the drivers in LA) actually underscored something in the drive which reached deep within me to a much darker, yet pleasanter, place.
While driving along Mullholland, my car became enveloped in the more-than-regular-marine-layer fog which has draped itself across the area on recent mornings. Though part of me trembled inside at the absolute dissolution of all homes and hills contained in the view that stretch of road ordinarily provides, outwardly I found myself cackling maniacally at the incredible power a simple concoction of air and water vapor held -- making the world round me shrink to just the road in front of me, hills or an occasional house on one side of me, and cliffs to nowhere on the other. Several times I found myself contemplating what might happen if the road and fog just kept going and I never reached my work because it no longer existed. Nothing on that drive existed except me in my little sedan, the road, and the fog.
Were I a 'normal' individual terms such as 'eerie' 'creepy' 'macabre' 'desolate' might frighten me as they jumped into my brain during this drive. Was I freaked out? A little bit, deep down inside. Did I like that feeling? You bet your fog spewing sky I did. I reveled in it. When I finally began descending the hill and houses and trees returned to view, it saddened me. Granted, had this occurred in the dark, my reaction might not have been so elated -- and when civilization started sprouting around me again and I noticed deer crossing signs I reflected on how devastating a deer jumping out of that fog would have been. Still, I think nature served me well this morning in reminding me of my Child of the Gothic status.

Dollop-headed clotpole

“Come on, dollop head. I need you to recover. Listen to me, clotpole. I don’t care if you die. There are plenty of other princes. You’re not the only pompous, supercilious, condescending, royal… imbecile I could work for; the world is full of them. But I am going to give you one more chance.”

Me? Obsessed with a BBC show starring a lanky, pale Irish boy with sculpted facial features and piercing blue eyes? A show that takes all Arthurian legends and says, "to hell with them, we're going to have fun... occasionally homo-erotic fun, but in a family-friendly way..." and doesn't care what die-hard Arthurian critics say? A show that was designed for the non-snobs? Ha! How could I ever love such a show?
Yeah. I do. Oh-so-ever-loving much. What makes Merlin work for me is the dynamic between the characters. I don't care what color anyone's skin is, or what varying accent they carry, or that there's more sexual tension between Merlin and Arthur than any other characters -- I care that those dynamics work. As the show progresses, the cast and crew continue to work harder and harder at developing these characters even while dealing with ridiculous scenarios and written-into-a-corner plot devices.
What sells the show more than anything is Colin Morgan as Merlin. When he's silly it's adorable. When he's getting abused it's entertaining. When emotions get real, he brings the level of the entire show up with just a flicker of his eyes. He's got magic inside him to be sure -- the magic of performance. I hope someday there's a film or series written for two Irish brothers with Colin Morgan and Jonathan Rhys Meyers... of course then I'd have to watch every episode at least three times. Once for Colin, once for JRM and once for both of them... and maybe once more for actual plot.
Point is, as cheesy as a show like Merlin can be, it's also proof that solid acting and passionate creativity aren't limited to art-house pictures or series on AMC. Not every series needs to be a hard-hitting drama or high-concept comedy or time-jumping, fast-edited action-adventure.
Plus, there's the occasional very fun word thrown into dialogue. Like clotpole. Or dollop head. Or besotted. Or idiomatic...

13 October 2010

Still WHINING, Louis...

Attempting to keep the horror-train creeping along at the pace of a depressant-drugged-up snail, I watched Interview with the Vampire on Blu-ray for the first time. Even without an HDTV I must say that the sumptuous costuming, lighting, and production design made it worth the $12 I spent on a movie I already owned on DVD.
I hadn't watched it in probably four years, and there was much in it I remember loving that I still loved... and issues with it I still have. I mean, I love me some Antonio Banderas and will gleefully gave at his Spanish hotness regardless, but who the hell thought casting him as an ancient French vampire in an American-laded movie when he could barely speak English was a good idea? Pretty, yes. Smart, no.
However, for all its faults and oddities, I truly prefer the film adaptation of this novel to its source material. The pace is better, there's less of Louis whining, and aging Claudia up a couple years makes her relationships with Louis and Lestat much more believable (and less creepifying in a reverse-child-predator way). There's also a level of attention to detail in creating the world that the film excels with in a way most 'horror' movies would have ignored.
Plus, it has one of the best endings of any vampire movie ever. Lestat jumping out from behind the reporter after he's fled Louis, feeding, taking the convertible's wheel, making appropriately disparaging comments regarding Louis' emo tendencies, turning on his charm, then driving off into the night blasting an epically awesome Guns 'N Roses cover of "Sympathy for the Devil" -- it doesn't get much more fawesome.

You want only child? I'll give you only child.

Coincidentally...

This is the type of determination that can be instilled in self-reliant only children: Child + Cake + 'Forbidden' = MINE NOW.
I never, to my knowledge, put my parents through anything like this for cake but I will say when you put a determined, self-reliant, calculating child who does not have siblings to rat on them in a situation where they want something desperately and you tell them, "no," that child WILL find a way. Consequences be damned, success will be ours no matter the cost because we need this (insert seemingly important item or result) and we need it NOW.
Not to degrade myself or other only children, but we pretty much turn into deviant, petulant puppies with the determination of people who have successfully climbed Everest in such situations. So if you want to know the secret of what makes some only children highly successful, it's probably because at some point during their formative years someone told them, once they had sampled the sweet deliciousness of a forbidden cake, that they could not have the cake. Those children then used all their powers of deduction, persuasion, physicality, coercion, and any other tactic they did not yet even know they name for to achieve said cake -- and most of them likely did reach the Everest peak of Cakedom and did not care that an ER visit was continually eminent for hours afterward because the only thing better tasting than ill-gotten cake is self-reliant triumph.

This from a girl who once carted her babysitter's son with her from the sitter's home to her mother's work because she wanted to see her mom. A story which will be told in full... someday.

I'm Alone but I ain't Lonely (mostly)

As a member of the Only Child Society, this article spurred a flurry of thoughts and opinions... now, I'm not one for psychoanalyzing from an academic standpoint. I get the basics of psychology, but beyond that I just get how people work on an instinctual and experiential level. I grew up surrounded by kids in multi-child families (perils of private, religious-oriented schooling) while I often stood as one of very few only children in every classroom.
Was I an outcast growing up? Yes. Do I blame it on my being an only child? No. My socialization with others began at an early age, mostly with my parents' friends. When I began to disassociate myself with other kids my age, it was because I couldn't connect to them on a basic, internal level. They had Girls Scouts, I had books and reenacting -- and I wouldn't trade that to this day. Elementary and middle school were exceptionally difficult for me, but it's not because I didn't have siblings to help me through it, it's because I never fit in. I still don't. To this day there's only a handful of people who really know and see the majority of my real self, and that has nothing to do with the presence or lack thereof of siblings in my life.
Just as this article's author states, I had fill-in siblings in a couple of cousins and friends, though I knew it couldn't replace an actual sibling. Even at the time I didn't want siblings, usually. My loner sensibilities began at an early age. What that did for me in a positive way is instill a value which many people lack even as adults: self reliance. Granted, for other reasons, some of that reliance transformed into an inability to trust others, but it also allows me even now to understand and cope with a world in which, when all is said and done, we're all on our own. Whatever supports help carry you through the harsh times, there will come a time (often multiple times) when the only person responsible for your life is yourself. It's a terrifying prospect, and one that I've noticed takes most people a long time to come to terms with -- and even once they do they continue to look for crutches rather than deal with the problem themselves. Spending so much time on my own as a youth, I learned to cope and handle this at an early age. I still hate it, don't get me wrong, but I deal with it.
In fact, one aspect that is only hinted at in this article that I've seen with many other only children is that (many) only children grow up faster. We have to in order to live up to, well, the world. Some who are coddled more than others struggle with this, but those of us who grew up in nurturing, non-stifling, challenging environments are forced (or force ourselves) to mature faster. Much. Faster. That, in turn, makes us less apt to be selfish or spoiled, though it can make us lean more toward Lonerville than Socialtown because we're not adapted to the level of most of our peers.
Socioeconomic factors also enter into the picture when it comes to 'spoiled' only children. I come from a significantly-less-than-affluent family, so I was never granted every tangible whim and desire the way only children are painted with spoils of winning the war against their siblinged counterparts. Coming from this type of family I never felt over-indulged in terms of attention either, since both my parents needed to work extreme hours just to make ends meet -- again, point for self-sufficiency.
Being an only child can also redefine your concept of 'family' since your worldsphere is often smaller than those with larger familial branches. However, like any social dynamic, it doesn't necessarily predict whether that redefinition creates a smaller or larger extended family, it's just an attributing factor. And really, like the article points out, that's all any of us are -- an accumulation of factors that shape us as we grow up, yet ultimately we as individuals are the only people who decide how we are defined.

However, I will be the first to admit that on occasion I succumb to 'typical' only child moments and attitudes. Sometimes when my patience wears thin or my eagerness becomes overwhelming I want something when I want it and how I want it and everyone else be damned. It happens to everyone, though. The difference being I have a convenient, socially-accepted phrase to fall back on: I'm having an only child moment. Sounds a lot better than: I'm being a selfish, narcissistic jackass right now for no discernible reason.

12 October 2010

All-American Ghost Story

While I have been remiss in watching some Halloween-inspired horror the past few days (life and theatre, what can I say?), I decided I needed to flex my atrophying reader muscles. Even though a selection of (potentially) great books I have not read yet sit on my shelves -- including the most recent Stephen King and Joe Hill novels and several Dracula-inspired fictions -- since it feels eons have passed since I last picked up a book much less read one, I decided to start out 'easy' with one of my favorite horror novels: Hell House.
I say 'favorite horror novels' yet honestly Hell House ranks among my favorite books ever. Though I haven't read all of Matheson's fiction, I have read a very sizable amount and, for me, this novel is his most thought-out, has the best characterization, possesses a brilliant blend of horror and black humour, and is perhaps the best American ghost story yet written. Yes, stories like 'The Fall of the House of Usher' are incredible and terrifying (and anyone who hasn't experienced the brilliance of early-American Gothic masterpieces like The Turn of the Screw and Wieland needs to read them immediately), but what causes Hell House to shine (other than spectacular writing, plot and pace) is the connection it creates between classic supernatural stories and modern (for the '70s) science. It sets out with a main character coming to scientifically explain paranormal phenomena and an extension of the human subconscious which, in some people, is capable of causing every form of residual haunting, poltergeist activity, possession, etc. It makes a damn good case for it, too... that is until the house and its 'residents' decide to come out and play, and play they do.
While the novel relies on some traditional horror and ghost story conventions, and is easily paralleled to The Haunting of Hill House, it stands on its own as a mastery of the genre. Matheson crafts a disturbing, horrifying atmosphere very early in the story to establish that it's not going to be a fun trip. What works so well is he weaves the horror through the tale in a way that only explicitly describes gore a handful of times. This lends itself to allowing the reader's imagination and early description of the House's history and recorded phenomena to fuel the real horror without over-saturating descriptions of violence, sex and psychological fuckery.
With the characters, each one is well-rounded and slightly unhinged in their own way, but not to the extent that they become unbelievable -- they are intelligent, progressive individuals who, although they have very differing views on what paranormal activities are and their causes, have sound reasoning and experience related to their own opinions and actions. Until the house starts screwing with all those opinions, of course.
My final assessment of the triumph in the novel's construction lies in the character of Fischer. He enters the house as the sole survivor of a previous examination of the house and shuts himself down in an attempt to keep the House from affecting him -- of course in doing that he allows the House access to the others with disastrous consequences. Yet you cannot hate him for protecting himself due to his ultimate redemption and his sardonic, cautious attitude toward a place which historically destroys anyone who enters it.
I have a deep, burning desire for this novel to become a film as a true American ghost story (unfortunately in the original movie adaptation in moving the story to England it sucked out that aspect). However, time has shown that unless Matheson writes the screenplay himself, his stories always gets completely screwed...

07 October 2010

Based on the books on your bookshelf, what conclusions would people draw about you?

Well, I'm not in the habit of pretending to be other people... or at least not assuming what their thoughts might... OK, even I couldn't make it through that sentence. I'm very much in the habit of imagining what other people think, it's just a matter of whether or not I care.

In the case of my bookshelves and their contents, it depends on the bookcase. Our downstairs by-the-telly case contains my small non-fiction collection and a smattering of general fiction & mysteries. One book in particular garners a lot of attention, and I will admit that's why I put it there. I haven't read it yet, but considering there are about 100 books on my shelves at any given time which haven't been given even a perusal yet, this means little in the grand scope of my reading habits.
One shelving unit upstairs, which acts as an additional headboard/room divider, contains more non-fiction (most of these related to 'the biz,' writing and how to keep hold of money), all my sheet music and instructional piano materials, a gothic-horror section, an historical fiction section, and my American Lit section... with a topper of myths, fairytales and huge anthologies.
The final bookshelf, my favorite shelf in terms of placement and scope, contains many, many books divided by subject per shelf. Top shelf is theatre, poetry, journals and spill from the shelf below which is... British Literature. Below that, at eye-level-for-my-midget-self, sit every copy of Dracula I own plus research books, related vampire novels, etc. Next is the King family shelf: Uncle Stevie, Tabby, Joe and Owen. Down one more, at rugrat level, are my youth novels (the entire Harry Potter & Lemony Snicket series, plus half a dozen Roald Dahl books and the Inkheart trilogy included). Bottoming out in the best way, the last shelf holds my Tolkien & Jasper Fforde collections, along with gothic mysteries/adventures by Louis Bayard, Matthew Pearl, Ellis Peters and Arturo Perez-Reverte.

I think 'eclectic' and 'voracious' are choice terms for my shelves on first glance. Anyone who pays particular attention will notice a trend towards darker, gothic, macabre fiction (hello Dracula and King family shelves), but not slasher-fic. It's also a collection of books for book lovers with a slant towards historical and fantasy fiction -- but not high-fantasy. There's a lot of epic/series collections included as well.
So what would other people think? Generally?
This bitch has a shit ton of books.

And they'd be right.

05 October 2010

Welcome to the company, Mary Poppins...

Always attempted and always failed. I doubt this year will be different, yet I still keep trying. The goal is: each day during the month of October to watch one horror movie or show. I have plenty of stock, and now with DVR even more to choose from. I've never been able to succeed at every day, and I know this year won't be any different, but progress tracking seems as though it may be helpful.

Day one: Jekyll.

This is one of the first series I remember watching on BBCAmerica once I had DirecTV installed in my very first, very own place.

Every time I watch it I find something new to entertain, frighten, enlighten, amuse and inspire. Right now I'm invigorated by the clippy dialogue, brilliant industrial-meets-Glass-horror score, and Michelle Bloody Ryan. I mean, damn, that is one gorgeous woman. Then again, my girl crush and adoration fades as soon as she's off screen and James Nesbitt gets to go full on let's-play-lions crazy. I'll get to Nesbitt and his brilliance at a later time.
Michelle Ryan captures a perfect balance between intelligent, professional, strong young woman and yet emotionally vulnerable and a victim of unrequited love with the 'sane' persona of her bosses. And yeah... she's smoking hot.
The music alternates between an eerie choral motif and an industrial, yet sometimes piano-driven, creepfest. It's deceptively simple and affecting in the moment -- one of those scores you think works at the time but you won't ever think of again. That's what the music wants you to believe. I've dreamt about this music, had delicious nightmares fueled by it. If there's one thing I love about music in British series, it's that they don't muck around with it. It's as much a part of the production as plot, writing, casting, directing, editing, etc. This makes for some truly amazing British compositions in their shows, and for horror-drama scores it's hard to beat this one.
The writing is... well, I'm biased when it comes to Steven Moffat. However, there's a solid, strong reason for that: he's a brilliant writer. The whole arc of this series screams of genius, but added to that is some incredible character development and stunning dialogue. While I can't imagine any other actors in the main roles on this show, I know that even competent performers could make gold with these words -- it's just that well done.
For now, let me say that if you have not seen this revitalization of Stevenson's tale and world, you are missing out on one of the best horror re-imaginings out there. I haven't yet been able to see Moffat's recent Sherlock Holmes adaptation, but with Jekyll as his maiden voyage into this genre I'm very excited for it. I know that to talk this up so much only sets it up for failure in the sense that not everyone views the universe, the horror genre, or British television as I do. Yet I have trouble believing that anyone who enjoys the Brits, twisted dark humour, classic horror themes, solid acting, great writing and/or psychopaths who slaughter lions with their bare hands and then sing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" might dislike this series...

"Ever killed anyone before, Benjamin?"
"Not personally. I have people."
"You're missing out. It's like sex only there's a winner."

30 September 2010

Snobby Pontificators and the Societal Zombie Plague

This article both inspires and infuriates me: Are Our Writers As Lousy As Our Bankers?

Within my fury comes the desire to counter and respond, because while I agree with the assessment of the current psuedo-intellectual trend in literature and art that ultimately is devolving 'high art,' it assumes the only art IS high art. Yet in order to define that which is 'high' from that which is (to use the phraseology of dear Uncle Stevie's mother) 'trash,' you place on a pedestal your own assumptions of what constitutes genius, and willfully dismiss anything that does not fit into your narrow-minded ideal of artistic mecca.
I do love the title 'Urban Intellectual Fodder' and agree with the style it describes, and the type of people who devour it. I also agree that art as a whole is on a downslide, a fact that can be attributed to a world with a disparate polarity between those who don't want to think and those who only think they want to think -- and trapped in a suffocating underworld, those who want to think AND feel and are being pressed down into near oblivion.
However, where I take issue is the assumption that one person's thought and emotion mean less, or have less long-reaching social impact, than someone else's. The Beatles were once little more than the 'NSync of their day. Bergman, while brilliant, is not perfection. Faulkner... well, let's just say I understand the appeal, but for me he's a pompous, over-wordy snob (this from someone whose favorite writing era is Victorianism). Yet he did write with passion, which counts for a lot.
This is where the analysis of 'real art' in this article's argument falls apart for me, because what strikes someone in the emotional chest, makes them gasp or scream, and/or makes them rethink the world, is different for everyone. Creating your own arbitrary standard of 'real art' only applies to you, and perhaps a group of others who have a similar aesthetic. Not that groups of people embracing their ideas about art, literature and culture should not be formed and encouraged, but doing so to the exclusion of all other forms of creative material adds to the detriment of art as much as Urban Intellectual Fodder.
Granted, I give the writer credit for admitting scruples and snobbery, but the intensity of feeling which accompanies such snobby opinions ultimately lends itself to turning away people who the 'true intellectuals' and 'appreciators of real art' deem as having lower cultural standards than themselves. While 'high' art and literature certainly has its place in society, and a much needed one, it is not necessarily the most valuable form of art. Some of what is now considered in some circles to be the best, most brilliant and affecting works of all time were either completely ignored in their time OR considered to the the 'pop' art of their period.
Now, if you want to make an argument that popular arts have taken a dive, I'm pretty much on that bandwagon. I also agree (to an extent) that high-brow forms of art have disintegrated, for the most part, into Urban Intellectual Fodder. I also agree there are many projects floating around out there which could, potentially, be incredible works but cannot get the funding or attention needed to come to fruition -- this can be blamed on the overarching attitude of 'whateverness' of our culture, and the concept that people want to be seen as supportive of the arts and art funding until it's a project which requires them to think or feel or express beyond their comfort zone -- or that of the drooling, teeming masses who only want more escapist 'reality' TV or to be instructed what to read by Oprah or plunk down $20 on popcorn and a remake that's a shadow of its source material, because none of those options require effort from us.
We're zombiefying ourselves with 'art' and the cultural height of said art is less relevant than the fact that we're training ourselves to not think or feel.

21 September 2010

Blog Sprint

This blog currently has no focus, which I only state to warn you that I have no idea what it may turn into. So what's the purpose of this entry? To write and keep writing.

See, when you're a participant in NaNoWriMo, the internet bestowed this miraculous and devilish networking tool on us called Twitter. Through Twitter emerged writing encouragement from the good people in NaNoLand in the form of word sprints. Since NaNo is centered around word counts, sprints came along to help people crank out words (sometimes a specified goal, sometimes not) in a certain amount of time.
While this is an extremely useful tool during NaNo month, it's also good for writing in general. So many times writers sit in front of their screens or notebooks or typewriters (yes, some people still use them) staring, seemingly, into space. For those who aren't or don't know writers, this staring does not equate to, say, a dog gazing at the wall for no particular reason, or a bored teenager in physics class daydreaming of being anywhere but physics class (or school period). When a writer stares off into space it's typical that the writer is conversing with a voice -- or voices -- inside their head, attempting to cull inspiration from the depths of the mind and translate that inspiration into words. Anyone who's needed to come up with a speech or announcement in a very short amount of time under immense pressure has an inkling of what this feels like.
None of this is original in concept. As long as there have been writers there has been writer's block. What I love about word sprints is they give you a deadline -- without pressure. Your goal is to write as much as you can, but no one says it has to be brilliant or original with perfect spelling and grammar. That's what editing is for. The point is to write and write and write until your fingers ache, whatever enters your mind, and then stop.
Some people don't work well in those situations, but I think it's more beneficial than detrimental to any writer. As with the general idea of National Novel Writing Month, the point is not perfection or completion but creating something from nothing, and dedicating a specified time of your life to it in order to end up with something that would not exist without your dedication to the project. This type of creative push can be applicable for all types of creative endeavors. Any kind of artistic venture carries its own style of writer's block as part of the package. What kind of music could be created if people took occasional composing sprints? What might be painted or sketched in a canvas sprint? What might be captured on film during camera sprints (an idea which forms many 24 or 48 hour film festivals)? What theatre might be created during a Fast and Loose adventure? If you're a creative type, next time you see one of these pop up, stop thinking about all the ways it can't work for you, and just go for it. Creating, unlike some aspects of 'real life,' carries much less risk for trying. Other than a bit of time, you have nothing to lose.

See, twenty minutes of sprinting and I created a blog that I otherwise may never have gathered the thoughts to compose... and in the few minutes it's taken you to read it, I hope you understand the benefit in just trying. Despite what Yoda says, when it comes to creating, 'try' can be a powerful force on its own, leading to much more doing.

20 September 2010

Reasons to 'like' the Interwebs

I realize I've been very 'down with the internet' recently when it comes to books, reading and writing. So today I'd like to take a moment and address somethings I love about the internet when it comes to these categories. For as much as I might rant and rail about the perils of too much technology, there exist some pretty damn awesome sites and resources online that would otherwise never be available to us. (Also, I'm going to leave off The Twitter on this post. It has its own advantages and pitfalls that deserve their own recognition at a different time)
Here are just a few that I love. If you have others, please feel free to comment!

Goodreads:
What it's for - Keeping an online catalog, or bookshelf, of books which can vary from books you have read or want to read to very specific, user-designed shelves for whatever you wish.
What else is cool - Goodreads now has authors involved with the site to follow and connect with, as well as other members across the world. There are various quizzes and polls to partake in and create. There are also book swaps and giveaways, and even meet-ups organized for some cities.
The downsides - Like any social networking site if you choose to be searchable by anyone, you can be found by anyone. However, you can lock your account down as well. Though in the reading/writing community I'm more apt to add someone who shares similar interests than on most sites. Some aspects of the site are difficult to navigate, but overall it is pretty intuitive.

Amazon:
What it's for - The mecca of online shopping. Amazon is responsible for fueling and destroying the publishing industry.
What is cool - The wishlist will always be my go-to place for tracking items I want. It's also very user-friendly in terms of navigation and typically has the most detailed descriptions and reviews of any other site.
The downsides - see above re: destruction of publishing industry. It also can be a little too overwhelming with all the information. And if that homepage tries to shove a Kindle down my throat one more time I may vomit.

Writer's Digest:
What it's for - The official site for the main writers' magazine in the US. Designed to help writers learn, explore, craft, network and get work.
What else is cool - Their email newsletters are incredibly helpful and cram a lot of great information and links into a digestible space. I have yet to be able to afford one of their webinars, but many of them look very helpful
The downsides - As a subscription-based magazine there is some 'members only' content unavailable to us poor folk. Also, it is a MASSIVE resource site and thus navigating and finding what you want can be a little difficult This is why I love the emails, because those break great sections down into smaller bits that are linked to for easier resource-finding.

National Novel Writing Month:
What it's for - As the title states... writing a novel in the span of only one month. November, every year, to be exact. The site focuses on uniting participants in this crazy undertaking to assist them in writing and connect them so they can help each other.
What else is cool - Municipal liaisons for many major cities/areas who organize meet-ups and write-ups during the month. Word sprints on Twitter. Encouraging pep talks by the staff AND famous (often participating) authors. Areas on the site specifically designed to help break writer's block and/or give a little distraction when it hits. The terrifying concept of writing a novel in 30 days and the exhilaration of finishing it.
The downsides - The site isn't always reliable and can crash at peak times (i.e. at the very beginning and very end of the month). The terrifying concept of writing a novel in 30 days.

As a side note, I've participated in NaNoWriMo three years, and 'won' two of those years ('winning' means you wrote 50,000+ words in 30 days. It does not mean you have a finished, publishable work, but it does mean you cranked out the equivalent of a novel in only one month). Whether I participate this year or use the month to perform serious edits on the two books I've previously scribed I have not yet decided, but my advice to anyone contemplating participation is this: whatever excuse or reason you think you have to NOT participate is not viable. NOTHING, save the inability to type, is an excuse to not try. You are the only blocker to not trying and only you can tell yourself to get over whatever obstacles you think exist and just do it. Whatever happens, whether you 'win' or not, you will have written something that otherwise may never have been written. You have nothing to lose, at all (except perhaps some sleep and a social life, both of which are overrated), and everything to gain.

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