Thursday, April 27, 2006

Yesterday's news, today!

If I had a brain, I’d be in bed, resting off this cold. But I don’t have a brain, and it’s not that late, and I’m strangely driven to follow through on the brief movie reviews I promised last night (adding two more from tonight to the list) if only because this cold has left me with a strange absence of creative energy. Perhaps I’m looking for evidence that it’s still flickering inside of me somewhere. Or perhaps I’m looking for someway to inspire its reappearance.

Whatever the case, I’ve watched five movies in the last two days, because I haven’t had the energy or motivation to do much of anything except lie on the sofa and have entertainment spoon-fed to me. This is the only time in my life that I kind of regret not having cable, but really, in the long run, five movie rentals (plus maybe two more tomorrow, if I still feel this crappy) is still a whole lot cheaper than the year’s worth of cable I’d be paying for, and not using, in between bouts of sickness.

Some movies were good, some movies were bad, and some were just wild, mindless entertainment – a fine selection to choose from, if I may say so myself. Shall we begin?


I started last night with “Hostel,” a horror film from director Eli Roth that had come recommended by someone who, well, has a taste for horror films. As do I, for the most part, though to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much, as most horror films these days seem to either be remakes of 1970s American horror films (mostly bad) or remakes of modern Japanese horror films (mostly…well, at least interesting, if not always good)

“Hostel” was different. It was a brand new script, from a relatively new filmmaker. And for the most part, it was effective.

The spent a little too much time focused on the setup for the story – a trio of 20-somethings backpacking through Europe, looking for a little lovin’ – but by the 30 minute mark, the creepiness started to work its way in. For the most part, the gore was understated, and the film went with the old-school “what you don’t see is even more effective” route (except for a few notable scenes, one of which actually made me leave the room – eyeball torture, bleargh…)

Part of what makes the film work is the not knowing. I hadn’t read much about the film prior to seeing it, and I don’t know how much of the plot details are given away in trailers and other marketing, because quite frankly, I didn’t see much of the marketing. But it’s a film that is well served by going into it not knowing what’s going on. Some of the film is obvious and predictable, but there are a few interesting bumps on the roller coaster ride nonetheless.

Final Grade: C+


In a way, it seems simultaneously strange and fitting that a film about violence, set against a very American back-drop, would come from a Canadian filmmaker. What seems strange about it is that it comes from Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg, who, while always interesting, has never been known for delivering…let’s say accessible films.

But “A History of Violence” is accessible – probably in part because it’s adapted from a graphic novel (or comic book, if you’re not afraid of looking like a geek for saying so) – while also being provocative and engaging. It’s not an easy film, by any stretch, and it occasionally punches you in the stomach. But as a film that seems to ultimately be a rumination of violence, it shouldn’t get away without punching you in the stomach at least once or twice.

And “rumination” is probably the best word. Like I said, it’s not an easy film, and it doesn’t exist to spoon-feed easy answers to the audience. Instead, it asks questions, and then turns its back on you, leaving the answers in your hands. Which, I happen to think, is exactly what all good art should do.

Final Grade: B+


What good can be said about a film whose entire plot appears to be: “After watching millions of people die, Tom Cruise finally learns that he’s kind of a crappy father.”

Here’s the problem with “War of the Worlds.” As much as Stephen Spielberg wants to create a relentless sense terror and dread right from the get go, he fails completely, because there are only four characters in this film. 1. Tom Cruise; 2. Tom Cruise’s daughter; 3. Tom Cruise’s son, 4. Millions of expendable other people (also known as “every body else.”)

In order to create a sense of dread, the audience must be able to believe that something dreadful might happen to the characters that they care about. At no point in this film is there that sense.

How do you create a sense of dread? Introduce characters. Make us like them. Make us care about them. Make us want to see them live. Then kill them. Ideally, do that in the first 30 minutes (though it’s tough to make us like and care about them in that much time, it’s not impossible). Once you’ve done that, you’ve at least taught us that bad things can happen to people we like. Maybe we’re still fairly sure that Tom Cruise will survive, because, you know, he’s Tom Cruise. And maybe we’re still fairly sure that the daughter will survive, because, you know, she’s young and cute. But the son, who’s kind of a dink? Well, him we might not be so sure about.

But without convincing us that anything can happen, we simply won’t believe it. So that even when the son appears to have gotten himself into a situation where his death is assured, we can all sit back and know that he’ll somehow be magically waiting for them in Boston. Because the lesson in Stephen Spielberg films is that bad things don’t happen to the people we care about. Particularly when there’s only three of them.

On the bright side, interesting cinematography…

Final Grade: D


I have a sort of romanticized view of journalism, which stems from years spent in the newspaper industry. Which is funny, because the years I spent in the newspaper industry happened entirely by accident, and the romanticized idealism I have evolved out of that accident.

“Good Night and Good Luck” works for me – and works very, very, very well – because it plays on that idealism. By showing us what CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow was willing to do in the 1950s to stand up to Senator McCarthy, specifically, and the “Communist Scare” in general, it’s a reminder of what journalists in both print and television can – and should – be doing today.

In my traditional post-film-watching Internet trivia searching, I stumbled upon a review of the film from someone who enjoyed it, but thought that it fell flat. That it didn’t give as much background to the story, that it didn’t give a strong enough backdrop to the era of McCarthyism, didn’t give Murrow enough motivation for the actions he takes. And if the film was meant as a historical lesson, I’d be inclined to agree. But I don’t think that was the point.

The point, I think, was to send a message to journalists. And I think the message was this: “Do your fucking job.”

The United States has been falling apart under the leadership of George W. Bush, but for the most part, the media has refused to hold him accountable. The media has refused to ask tough question. The media has refused to try to skewer him. Meanwhile, it’s spin here, and propaganda there, and the average American citizen sits back in their chairs not knowing what’s going on. Because the media there isn’t doing its job.

I have no idea how effective the message of “Good Night and Good Luck” was. I suppose the bottom line is that something is better than nothing. And for their attempts to spread that message, I tip my hat.

Final Grade: B+


Fun, cheese-ball, sci-fi, action, horror film. Everything I thought it was going to be going into it, so I was hardly disappointed.

I wasn’t driven to see this film by any stretch of the imagination, but it had been nagging at the back of my mind for awhile, because I do have a bit of the computer gamer in me, and the film was adapted from a computer game. Loosely, mind you, but I don’t think that was entirely a disservice. The biggest problem with adapting a film from any medium – book, graphic novel, video game – is figuring out what to keep, and what to throw away. I think, for the most part, they found a decent balance in “Doom.”

Strangely enough, the film is actually more successful at creating a sense of dread than “War of the Worlds” was – simply because of the style of film it is. You know this is a cheese-ball, sci-fi, action, horror film, so you also know that everyone on the screen has an equal chance of winding up dead before the credits roll. Well, everyone except for the young marine who was recently reunited with his twin sister. But if a film like this can’t be obvious in its plotting now and then, what film can?

Final Grade: C+

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Oh CRAP...

I was about to pop by here and write brief reviews of the three films I watched tonight, and then I realized that I still haven't done my column yet, because I'm sick, and have been in a lazy, brain-dead state for most of the day. to write my column. And odds are, bed after that. So movie reviews, if they come at all, will have to wait for another night.

For the record, the films are: Hostel, A History of Violence, War of the Worlds.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Musical Questionnaire

Because I missed last Friday’s Random 10, and because I think this might prove to be mildly entertaining, here’s an entirely different Random music posting.

Here’s how it works. As always, you load up all your music, hit the shuffle button, and start the music playing. Each song that comes up is the answer to each of the questions in the questionnaire.

Courtesy of Tony Pierce

Will I get far in life?Return to NYC (Deus Ex Soundtrack)
How do my friends see me?Hospital Themes (Jesper Kyd)
Where will I get married?Vancouver (Genesis)
What is my best friend’s theme song?Steppin’ Out (Joe Jackson)
What is the story of my life?Here Is Your Paradise (Chris De Burgh)
What was high school like?Upside Down (Tori Amos)
How can I get ahead in life?That Don’t Make It Junk (Leonard Cohen)
What is the best thing about me?Bullet Boy (Massive Attack)
How is today going to be?Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
What is in store for this weekend?White of the Eye (Pink Floyd)
What song describes my parents?Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)
My grandparents?Ultrasonic Sound (Hive)
How is my life going?Brain Damage / Eclipse (Roger Waters)
What song will they play at my funeral?Forever (Queen)
How does the world see me?Sweet Temptation (Jewel)
Will I have a happy life?Still Standing (Kyle Minogue)
What do my friends really think of me?Candy and a Current Bun (Pink Floyd)
Do people secretly lust after me?Before You Accuse Me (Eric Clapton)
How can I make myself happy?On The Outside (Oingo Boingo)
What should I do with my life?Walking on the Moon (Sting)
Will I ever have children?Sure Know Something (Kiss)
What is some good advice?Grey Seal (Elton John and Billy Joel)
What is my signature dancing song?Head On Collision (SFX)
What do I think my current theme song is?Diamond Shoal (Paul Ruskay)
What does everyone else think my current theme song is?Latin (Mike Oldfield)
What type of men/women do you like?Like To Get To Know You Well (Howard Jones)
What did you think of this meme?Gourmet Valse Tartare (Hans Zimmer)

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Hello...? Fate...? Where are you? I know you're around here somewhere...


There you are.

I'm not hard to find. I'm everywhere. I'm steering your life, and the lives of all those around you.

I know. That's sort of what I wanted to talk to you about.

Do tell.

Well, I'm curious. Is life this confusing for everyone on the planet, or do you have some grudge against me in particular?

What do you mean?

Well, it sort of seems as if my life has been on a strange, surreal, and occasionally terrifying roller coaster since, well, since around last August, actually.


And I'm just wondering if that's normal. I'm getting kind of dizzy.

Everyone has their own life to lead.


So, to answer your question, no. No, life isn't necessarily as confusing for everyone else as it is for you. However, there are some whose lives are more confusing as yours, so I suppose you should count your blessings.

That's one blessing. Counting up to one doesn't take very long.

There are others.

Such as?

I'm not going to do all your homework for you. Blessings are everywhere. If you can't see them, that's your problem not mine.

"Stop and smell the roses," you're saying.

Hardly. I abhore cliches.

But the underlying message...

Is awfully cliched.

Okay, fine, look. All I really want to know is this. Is this roller coaster thing going to go on for awhile longer? Or can I expect things to kind of slow down and get back to normal anytime soon?

That would be telling.

And that would be why I'm asking.

If I told people of their fates, where would the excitement be? The excitement, whether you realize it or not, stems from those roller coaster moments. Those moments of terror. Without them, life would be dull. It would be repetitive.

I don't mind dull and repetitive now and then. I'd sort of prefer it sometimes.

Do you see the sign that says, "Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back?"


And there's a reason for that. Quit your whining. No one wants to hear it.


Just remember. I'm only providing the backdrop to your life. The decisions -- how you choose to react to the things I provide you -- are entirely up to you.

I don't believe in free will.

Yeah, well, technically you only discard the notion of free will when time is viewed from an omniscient perspective. You still acknowledge that, given how we perceive time, the illusion of free will exists, and so you must continue to make choices.

But those choices can't be avoided. I'll make the ones I'll make whether I want to or not.

No. You'll make them *because* you want to. And that's why they're the only choice you can make.

And what's the right choice?

Right, wrong, who cares? Is it more right to eat corn flakes for breakfast, or toast? It's neither. They're just choices. I already told you, quit your whining, and get back to living your life. You used to complain that things were boring. Now there's some excitement and you complain about a roller coaster. I never took for you the type to never be satisfied.

So, no hints from you, then.

Not a one. Sorry. Look, I've got to go. It's been good chatting and all, but there's lots of world events I need to exert my influence on, so if there's nothing more you need to say...

No, it's cool. Take care.

Cheers, mate.

New Stickage

Stick Figure Drama #97 is now available. The shit, as they say, begins to hit the fan, as we march headlong to the 100th episode, and the death of one of the most beloved Stick Figure Drama characters.

Okay, that may not be fair. I have no idea which characters are the most beloved. There's probably only two or three people who even tell me that they read this thing. *BUT* amongst these two or three people, this character, who's going to die, is pretty popular, I've got to admit.


Stick Figure Drama #97. Read it. Laugh.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Pregnancy, hormones, and mind-blowing psychic abilities.

On the day that June Marie Darcy was arrested for murder, the road outside of her house was so flooded by people that it was no longer functional as a road. It had become a river of people, with a current that didn’t move in one particular direction, but instead in both directions, towards the center, towards June Marie Darcy’s front door.

The police who came to escort her to the jail where she would be held pending the official filing of charges against her had to park four blocks away and push their way through the surging river of flesh to find their way to her home. It took them more than 30 minutes to get in, and another 30 minutes to lead her back to their squad cars.

The protesters – for that’s what the majority of that crowd of thousands were – came from both sides of a fence that had quickly sprung to life to divide people’s reactions to June Marie Darcy’s murder of her husband, Thomas. One side felt the incarceration was a mistake, that her crime was forgivable, that the woman was pregnant and hormonal and, although no one thought that her husband had necessarily deserved to die, it seemed apparent that he had been pushing her buttons for awhile.

On the other side of the fence, the attitude was that the incarceration was too late, and if she had simply been taken off the street months ago and put away behind four concrete walls, Thomas would have been alive today, and alive in three more months, to see the birth of his first – and now, sadly, only – child. That side of the fence felt June Marie Darcy should have been locked up because when you have the ability to wipe out another person’s life with just a thought, you were probably too dangerous to be left on the streets.

From a short story I started dabbling with today.

I was actually inspired by drifting through old blog posts, stumbling upon a post I'd made about a weird dream I'd had involving a pregnant woman who had accidently killed her husband with her psychic abilities. At the time it seemed kind of silly, but as I stumbled upon it recently, it actually seemed like it might be an interesting backdrop for a story. The only problem is, I'm not entirely sure what the story is bout.

Though I don't suppose that's too big a crisis at the moment. I can dabble with the set up of it, try to fill in the backstory a bit, and see if I stumble upon a plot along the way. And just keep writing until I find one.

Though the last time I did that, it turned into a novel...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bits and pieces

I was doing some reading on Kurt Vonnegut for a bit yesterday after finishing "Slaughterhouse Five" (and a bit again today) and found a fairly well put together unofficial site at VonnegutWeb.

There, I learned that Vonnegut had attempted suicide in 1985, with a combination of alcohol and sleeping pills. This I did not know.

I also learned that following the release of "Bluebeard" (which is the novel I dove into immediately after "Slaughterhouse Five" as it is the only other Vonnegut novel I have that haven't read yet) many major magazines and newspapers refused to review it. What I didn't learn was why. And after fifteen minutes of Google searching for answers, I still have no idea why they'd refuse to review it.

A refusal to review a book seems to be an attempt to make a significant statement, of some kind, about something.

Can't imagine what it was though.

In completely unrelated news, I found myself mucking about in Flickr yesterday, having all but forgotten that I had created an account and even set up some software that added a Flickr upload option to my context-sensitive right-mouse-button popout. So I made a Flickr page, and even uploaded some photos. Nothing interesting to speak of, just testing the interface out.

It's entirely possible this might inspire me to recharge the batteries in my crappy digital camera.

It's also entirely possible that I'll just forget about this Flickr account again. Even though I *did* take the time to link it somewhere near the bottom of the right-hand column (near my email address, if you want to go looking for it.


I think the reason I felt so compelled to write last night (a feeling which has lasted into today, by the way) is because I finally got around to reading Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" after starting it last fall, then losing the book when I was about halfway through. Having found the book again a few weeks ago, I slammed through it, cover to cover, in a few days. Then, yesterday, promptly started in on Vonnegut's "Bluebeard."

The thing about Vonnegut is that his style is so wonderfully, beautifully casual and simple, I find myself reading his stuff and thinking, "Damn, I wish I could write like that." Which usually leads me to think, "Hey, maybe I could write like that." Which usually leads me to think, "Hey, I should try writing like that."

Both last year's National Novel Writing Month Novel and the end of the world story, I think, could both benefit from a simple, casual style. I was even mapping out the next chapter of the novel in that style, in my head, before sitting down to finish the previous one. But, in the one page I did write, I got bogged down in boring details when a character started fumbling with a telephone because he was tired and hungover. It was the furthest thing from simple.

So I stopped.

Maybe tonight I'll take a crack at the end of the world story, if I have enough free time.

Sunday, April 16, 2006



For those interested in that sort of trivia, this is my 300th post to the blog.

Looks more or less the same as all the other ones.

I've been sitting on this post for awhile, not wanting to fill it up with someone trivial or meaningless, which seems to be the sort of thing I've felt most inclined to blog about today.

A part of me wants to write about how complicated it is to find a way of understanding the world, of trackign down meaning in the world, while your busy juggling an existential perspective, a need for scientific measurement, and a desire to connect with divinity. I want to write about how I am often envious of people who have very easy, very simple, world perspectives. Who don't question things. Who simply live inside of their little boxes that they've defined for themselves or, sometimes, allowed others to define for them.

This attitude I will call "Anal Sex and Wheel of Fortune Syndrome" in honour of a story I wrote a few years ago.

The thing is, I'm not sure what more there is to say beyond: "I have no answers, but to this day, I seek them. And I hope one day I will find them, but as each day goes by, leaving me no closer to them, I fear this mission can only end in failure."

Beyond that, I've had a burning desire to write *anything* -- though, by this, I'm not referring to the blog. I dug out and dusted off last year's National Novel Writing Month novel, with a few vague memories of where I was planning to go with it, but I only managed to toss out one page that was okay, but left me with the sense that each page following would be worse, because I hadn't reconnected with the identities of my characters yet. So I dropped it.

I thought about opening up my unfinished short story about the day that the world was going to end, and how on that day the world held the largest party of all time, where they destroyed everything they could get their hands on, including -- in some cases -- themselves, only to find at midnight that due to technical errors, the destruction of the world would be postponed for a week.


But, in spite of my burning desire to write, I don't have the energy. That one, I thought, I might actually have some luck with. And that's what turned me off of it. I thought about how much was still left to do on the story, how I hadn't even finished the countdown to the first scheduled destruction, let alone gotten to the point where the narrator was wandering through the carnage, exploring the devastation, simultaneously in awe of and disgusted by mankind's potential for self-destruction.

So I just skipped it.

And now, of course, in a perfectly appropriate turn of events, it looks as if my internet connection is down, which means this blog post -- the only thing I've written today, in spite of the endless, burning desire to write -- isn't likely to get posted either.

(actually, it would seem to have just been a burp in the cable modem, as a reset of that has gotten me back online. although now I've lost my train of thought)

In the end, I don't suppose this is any more of a significant way to honour the 300th post than any of the other miscellaneous bits of gibberish I'd bee thinking of posting about. It's writing about nothing at all. Writing about the absence of writing. Self-referrential creation of the most egotistical variety.

Writing about nothing at all, and assuming people want to read it.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I'm not sure what to think.

I'm thinking about a blog entry I read about half an hour ago.

I haven't ready tony in weeks. Maybe months. And when I stop by for a visit tonight, what awaits me at the top of his blog isn't his usual scathing political commentary, or a tale of sexual adventures with Anna Kournikova.

It's a story of a 20-something man in Oklahoma who killed and mutilated a 10-year-old girl. His neighbour.

And I can't stop thinking about it.

And I'm thinking, as I always have, that there is a very fine line between men and monsters. I'm thinking that the inhuman walk among us every day and we don't know it because the thing that separates us from them is tiny, almost invisible, and yet it is everything.

I'm thinking, as I have for years, that sociopaths would make fantastic actors, either on stage or in front of a camera, because they act every day of their lives.

I'm thinking that it's incredibly strange to live in the 21st century, where we can take a peek through a tiny window into the existence of a criminal, a murder, because, at least at this moment, his blog is still up and running.

I'm thinking that, at least to the outside world, he seemed so...normal. But then, that's the problem, isn't it? The raving and drooling psychopaths are easy to spot, easy to avoid.

I'm wondering what that tiny line is, that tiny string, that thiny thing that separates us from them, I'm wondering what that really is. Can we see it? Can we know it's there? Is it something that some of us are born with, and some not? Or is it something that we all have at the start, but which, in some of us, breaks?

I'm wondering how someone -- anyone -- can, as the Police Chief of Purcell, Oklahoma described in a press release, "plan to kidnap a person, rape them, torture them, kill them, cut off their head, drain the body of blood, rape the corpse, eat the corpse, then dispose of the organs and bones."

I'm wondering how that same someone could write an entry -- albeit a short one -- in his blog while a little girl was dead in his closet.

I'm wondering if I have ever met anyone with this sort of potential in them. I'm wondering if I ever will.

I'm wondering how I could possibly tell.

I'm wondering if this is some sort of sad, sick, result of the fact that we, as a species, are essentially broken. And I'm wondering, if that is the case, is there any way we can be fixed?

My thoughts tonight are with the family and friends of 10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin, and with the entire community of Purcell Oklahoma. They are -- I can only assume -- even more lost and confused by this than I am.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Random 10

I know it’s Easter Friday and all, but somehow I almost forgot that it was, you know, Friday. Silly, silly, silly me.

  1. Over Our Heads – Jon Brion – Finally something has come along to break the endless cycle of Alabama 3 tunage. And that something was the “I ♥ Huckabees” soundtrack. I’ve had a copy of “Knock Yourself Out” since I saw the film, and actually toyed with using it somewhere in the Monkey House exit music (probably along with a neat jazz-piano version of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”) but ended up choosing two Apocolyptica tunes instead. But I digress. The point is this: This wonderful, mellow, eerily cheery song about how life is sad, death is inevitable, and any grander meaning is “Over Our Heads” is my current favourite track form the soundtrack.

  2. Chris DeBurgh – One More Mile To Go – Don’t think I’ve heard this one before, which is weird, because I didn’t think I’d done any CdB downloads without listening to them. Definitely sounds like a Chris DeBurgh song, though. Funny that.

  3. Ani Difranco – Independence Day – I think I am most fond of somber, acoustic style stuff as opposed to her more upbeat, or more overproduced material. This song is just ridiculously perfect with a bare minimum of instruments.

  4. Depeche Mode – Black Day – Track three of unknowns for tonight. This is a weird one for Depeche Mode. The music seems mostly comprised of an electronic harmonica or something. Actually, this now seems like some kind of weird remix of something. “Black Celebration” maybe? I’m not sure.

  5. Genesis – Second Home By The Sea – This is one of those songs that really shouldn’t have been split from its other half. The two parts of the song really should be played together, and yet by splitting them, you’re allowing radio stations and random playlists to muck with the proper musical experience. I suppose I could just edit the two tracks together into one…but that’d take too much work. Easier to just complain.

  6. Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers (Massive / DB Mix) – One of my favourites from early Gabriel stuff. It’s been awhile since I heard the original, but seems to have a much, much heaver drum track on it. (Oh, wait, I think I just realized that the “DB” in “DB Mix” probably stands from drum and bass…)

  7. Sheryl Crow – All I Wanna Do – The song that introduced me to Sheryl Crow. And one which seems to have a sound unique to just about anything else she’s done. I think the notion of kicking back at the bar while everyone else is at work has a sort of appeal to most folks. I know it does to me.

  8. U2 – Grace – Hearing U2 tonight reminds me of this news story, which I read this morning. Which doesn’t have anything to do with this song, but I thought it was interestingly nonetheless, and it wouldn’t have gotten a mention in my blog if not for the song. So it’s kind of connected in that way. It also seems like a fitting song in the context of the news story, actually.

  9. Oingo Boingo – Can’t See (Useless) – One of the better tracks off the last of their studio albums. Unfortunately, this is the live version from their “Farewell” tour which isn’t quite as strong as the original. Still, a great song.

  10. Oingo Boingo – Outrageous – And from a Boingo song performed during their final tour comes a Boingo song that, from the sounds of it, came from very early in their career. Man, I love their stuff. Have I done a Boingo random 10? I can’t remember now.

  11. McFadden & Whitehead – Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now – Unless my memory is mistaken, this is from the “Boogie Nights” soundtrack. Though the more I listen, the more I think I’m mistaken. I don’t know. I haven’t seen the movie in awhile. I tried to watch it the other night, but got tired. I have to stop getting the urge to watch movies at 1:00 a.m. I think. Particularly movies that are longer than 120 minutes.

And that’s it for tonight’s Random 10. Thanks for coming along for the ride. Cheerio and good tidings.

Small and insignificant "Dinner and Drinks" update

I chatted briefly with one of the executive members tonight about the play. His take?

It was a good read, but he didn't think it would work on stage.

Interestingly, his concern was, of course, with the content, but not about the audience's reaction -- rather with finding actors and actresses willing to deliver the lines. Which is actually something that hadn't considered me.

Scene One is mostly free of vulgarities, but is the bleakest and most depressing of the scenes.

Scene Two has a smattering of vulgarities, for both the male and female roles, but nothing too, too heavy (well, not for me at least, but I work at a newspaper where f-bombs are exploding constantly).

Scene Three has more vulgarities than I could possibly count, but interestingly they almost exclusively belong to the female. The male gets away with acting mostly uncomfortable and embarassed.

Unfortunately, the two from the first scene don't get off that easy. They may not have vulgarities, but they *do* have a ridiculously over-the-top makeout scene at the end of Scene Four (which is a sort of epilogue that wraps up their story, and manages to end a depressing play about dysfunctional relationships on a relatively positive note).

Still no official word as of this point. Just felt like sharing that new perspective.

Stickage #96

Another week goes by, and other stick figure drama, and we are yet one more week closer to the historical Episode #100 of everyone's favourite crappy stick figure comic strip.

I've got to admit, this strip, as much as I think it worked for what I needed to do, was kind of a mess. I had to change the title, because an intended "Apocolypse Now" reference didn't actually make it into the dialogue. I also had to scrap an "extreme" joke of some kind. PLUS "Weird Bob" is supposed to look like he's crouched over, talking to Petey the imaginary karaoke-singing badger, but you can't really tell that because the word balloons are on top of his legs.

Plus, Weird Bob's dialogue is incredibly hard to read in this, because it doesn't have anything to do with what myself or the paramedic are talking about. He's just kind of off to the side.

But what he's saying is VITAL.

However, even given all that, I think I have finally figured exactly how this phase of the compuzilla storyline will be coming to a close (and coming to a close in only three short weeks). I've had a vague idea for a few months now, how it was going to end, but I think I've reached the point where I know exactly what the next 12 panels of the strip are going to be.

A part of me is even considering burning through the next three strips, just to make sure I don't forget anything. They won't see print until it's time for them to see print, so if I get better ideas there'd still be time to fix them. But better to get the idea I have down right now, for fear of losing it.

Plus, I seem to have been on an absolutely ridiculous creative bender lately.

(PS: Speaking earlier of Weird Bob's conversation with Petey...a special prize to anyone who can figure out any of what Petey is trying to say, before the reveal next week)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I did a silly, silly thing...

A man and woman are seated at a table. The woman is just eating the last few bites of her dinner, the man is already finished – his plate is pushed aside and he has a clipboard leaning against the edge of the table. He is studying the pages on the clipboard intently, a pen in his hand.

GEOFF: I’m taking the pots.

SHARON: I want those.

GEOFF: They were a gift from my mother.

SHARON: You never cook.

GEOFF: Yes, but they were a gift. From my mother. Who’s now dead.

SHARON: Great, you want to honour your mother’s memory by letting the pots she bought us as a wedding gift collect dust?

GEOFF: You never even liked my mother.

SHARON: I like the pots, though. They’re nice.

GEOFF: This isn’t up for debate. You’re not having the pots my mother bought us. I’ll buy you another set.


So, against my better judgement, I submitted an original play as a "workshop" production to run during Stampede.

Ironically, this had been a plan of mine from the start, though my plan was to pitch an entirely different, full-length play. Getting that one written didn't pan out, sadly.

I considered a variety of other play projects that I could tackle instead, as the deadline to propose something for summer got closer and closer, never once thinking about this particular project. It had completely slipped my mind until a friend reminded me of it.

I loaded the 1/3 complete document up about a week ago, read through it, and found that the creative wheels were running again. So I started working.

And working.

And working.

And before I knew it, the silly thing was almost finished.

It's currently called "Dinner and Drinks" and the selection above comes from the opening of scene two -- of four scenes in total. It's one act, somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes depending, I guess, on how it's directed.

The tricky thing is this: I don't want to direct it. And, while I have approached sdomeone about the directing job, I don't currently have a director.

I'd be more than happy to act as a "mentor" to a first time director, because I'll be at every one of the rehearsals anyway, but I want to be there as a writer first and formost. The point of a "workshop" production is to actually get the words on stage, to get real people delivering them, so the writer can find out what works adn what doesn't, find the bits that are good and cut out or change the bits that are bad, find the problems with facing and get them repaired.

Text on a page is one thing. Text out of a person's mouth is something else entirely.

I'm excited about this. I'm also petrified. And, strangely enough, I'm not sure which terrifies me more -- the idea of having the proposal rejected, or the idea of having the proposal accepted, and dealing with the fact that at some point in the near future, my own words will be on stage, and there will be at least some people in the audience hearing them, reacting to them.

But then, I guess, it's all about taking chances, isn't it? It's all about breaking out of the safe zone. Otherwise you become a zombie.

I know you’ve been hurt in the past; we both have. I know a part of you has given up on love; a part of me has too. I know you just want to stay where it’s safe, where there’s no danger, where there’s no chance of getting hurt; I know all those things because I feel them too. But where it’s safe, there’s no life. There’s no passion. There’s no fire. If you stay where it’s safe, you stop being alive, and you start to just kind of exist. You eat food without tasting it. You drink wine without savouring it. You walk through life like a zombie.

From the fourth scene (I guess I'm not that terrified of my own words if I'm quoting myself this relentlessly -- gee, Todd, egomaniacal much?)

It's a funny play, in parts, or so I hope. But it's also awfully vulgar. I'm not sure how much of the vulgarities can be cleaned up in a polish -- I know I can sometimes get off on a particularly nasty mind-set and overdo the nasty words, and that might have been the case here. I won't know until I sit down with the script and red pen.

But the plan -- to my knowledge -- is to stage it for three days at Stampede, and I figure that even an amazingly vulgar play should be able to attract a decent crowd for three days, if it's got a local author attached to it. I'm sure there'd be more than just a few people interested in seeing what sort of silliness local columnist Todd Sullivan has come with for a play.

Oh man, they'll be surprised.

I'm not sure how long it'll take before I know whether "Dinner and Drinks" is a go for Stampede, but I'm sure once I know, this spot right here will be the location of the official announcement.

Big deal, you're doomed to die...

So what you’re never understood?
Big deal you’re doomed to die
Oh, oh
Nothing ever lasts
It all gets torn to shreds
If something’s ever lasting
It’s over our heads
It’s over our heads
- Jon Brion
Over Our Heads

I finally got my hands on a copy of the "I ♥ Huckabees" soundtrack and, just like any other time I get my hands on some really, really nifty music, it's been on just about constant replay for the last two days (though I only played it once at work today, for fear of driving my coworkers nuts).

Additionally, it makes for really, really great writing music, as it's mostly instrumental, so not a lot of lyrics to get into my head and interfere with my own word creation process.

Brion hasn't done a lot of soundtrakc work -- on top of "Huckabees" there's "Magnolia," "Hard Eight," "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," and "Punch Drunk Love." Of them, "Magnolia" is really very, very good but "Huckabees" is a stand-out, and easily my favourite, and a favourite among soundtracks in general. It's strangely and uniquely arranged in a way that manages to somehow drift easily between the happy and the sombre.

I suppose that's what happens when you compose a soundtrack for a film billed as an existential comedy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Slack off

In a rare (and therefore oh-so-exciting) third post for an evening, I've decided to finally get off my ass and add the "Slactivist" blog to my linkage section. It's been a huge favourite of mine for longer than I can remember now, and it's embarassing how long it's taken me to link it.

Fred Clark offers a thoughtful, honest, and meaningful Christian perspective on everything from current events to his regular disection of the "Left Behind" series of revalation-inspired novels. And it's a perspective that even a dreadful, heathen-like, "spiritually ambiguous" type like me can appreciate.

Consider this linkage update in honour of Easter.

And thus completes my trilogy of same-day spirtually-related blog posts.

Goodnight and good luck.

And while we're on the topic...

While we're discussing spiritual significance, let's talk about Easter.

I sometimes have a tough time at work dealing with religious holidays -- as I'm sure more than just a few of the people who work in the advertising industry do. As with any sort of largely recognized holiday -- Valentine's Day, Christmas, Easter -- people want to put thematic elements in their advertising. They want graphics that mesh with the theme of the appropriate season.

And as such, during easter, I find myself at our online clip-art service, searching for easter-related clip-art. And inevitably what I get is a bizarre fusion of rabbits, chocolate eggs, and crucifixions. And the three don't mesh together in my head very well.

For some reason, the "Santa Claus / Birth of Jesus" elements don't collide quite so violently in my head. Maybe it's because the birth of Jesus is a far more peaceful story, maybe it's because there are elements of "gift giving" in the birth story, and maybe it's just because Christmas is now so overly commercialized that it wouldn't surprise me to see a corporation toss a Santa suit on a replica of Jesus if they thought it'd help them sell a few more toaster ovens.

Easter is different though.

Jesus' involvement with Easter is not pleasant. It doesn't carry with it the sorts of feelings one gets when one thinks about cute little bunnies hopping around in lush, green fields, laying chocolate eggs while they cluck like a chicken.

That sort of image is cute and fuzzy and it warms every but the most frigid of hearts.

Jesus, on the other hand, was nailed to a cross, the cross then stuck in the ground so he was hanging on those nails, and left to die a very slow, excruciatingly painful death.

Not so warm and fuzzy. Unless, I suppose, you're the Hannibal Lector type.

Yes, there's the whole "resurrection three days later" element to Easter, and that's kind of warm and fuzzy. Not to mention the whole "dying for your sins" bit, which also has its share of warm fuzziness.

But neither of those hints of warm and fuzzies can compare to: Man. Nailed. To. Cross. And. Left. To. Die. Painfully.

Simply put, I don't get this modern, North American version of easter. It confuses me. It makes my brain hurt. And quite frankly, I can't wait for it to be over so I can go back to searching for clip-art images that don't force my mind to try to merge two very, very different sets of imagery into one single, confusing, troubling idea.

(Note: This notion was very, very close to being the basis for my column this week, but I ultimately went with something safer, and something less potentially prone to offending the Christian readers that a "spirtually ambiguous" type like me might actually have. For those Christian readers who might have stumbled upon this subject at this, Hi! Hope you're not prone to taking offense to things like this...)

And there's two of my favourite films on the list!

I can't remember how I found the site anymore, and it's been in my bookmarks for a few weeks, but I decided it was worth drawing your attention to Arts and Faith's list of 100 Spirtitually Significant Films.

Yes, there are some obvious picks in the list -- films like "The Passion of the Christ," "Jesus of Nazareth," and "The Last Temptation of Christ." But a lot of the list is made up of some really interesting choices. Films like "The Straight Story," and "The Elephant Man," by David Lynch, Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven," and "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," from the always bizarre mind of Charlie Kaufman.

I guess it's the word choice in titling the list that's relevant -- that these aren't necessarily "religiously" significant, or significant ways specific to certain faiths or denominations, but "spirtitually" significant.

Just from glancing at the list, it looks like more than half of it is made up of foreign films, providing a much wider examination of spirituality than in focusing just on what Hollywood outputs, which is nice.

Oh, and for the record, my two favourite films that made the list -- "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Magnolia" are also my first and second favourite films, period, of all time. Magnolia was kind of a surprise, especially placed at #27.

Give it a look and see how many of your own favourite films made the short list.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Further choices

Having spoken with someone wise in the ways of theatre today, I'm beginning to more seriously consider proposing "Closer" for next season, regardless of it's potentially risque content.

And I swear it's only because it's a breathtakingly amazing play, and not because it'd be fun to hold auditions for the part of the stripper.


Delayed respects

Dear Warren Zevon:

It was only yesterday, I swear to God, that I heard your music for the first time. And, having heard it for the first time, I'm embarassed that I didn't hear it before, and more importantly, didnt' have the chance to have known your work before you left this world on September 7, 2003.

It's late, I know, but I hope you're resting easy.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Yet Another Stickage

This week's stick figure drama is up, once again preceding its appearance in the newspaper. As I suspect I've said before, enjoy it while it lasts, because I'll surely get lazy again one of these days.

You know, I'm having some real trouble drawing the paramedic's hair in this digital version of SFD...

Land of the Dead, in my head

Zombie dreams last night. But I was armed with a sawed off shotgun in order to properly deal with the masses of the living dead that ascended on the hotel (I think it was a hotel -- it seemed somewhat hotel-like) where I happened to be. A hotel where, conveniently, there was some sort of weapon exhibition going on, so there were fresh rounds for my shotgun just about everywhere.

One zombie was even nice enough to wait until I had finished reloading before leaping at me.

For the record, they were the old-school, Romero-style, slow shuffling zombies, and not the running super-fast from points A to points B zombies of modern films like "28 Days Later" and the "Dawn of the Dead" remake.

According to my favourite online dream interpretation site...

To see or dream that you are a zombie, suggests that you are physically and/or emotionally detached from people and situations that are currently surrounding you. You are feeling out of touch. Alternatively, it may indicate that you are feeling dead inside and are simply going through the motions of daily living

Not sure what it means to dream that other people are zombies. Perhaps I'm feeling like everyone around me is dead inside? Perhaps I subconsciously just wanted to lay some heavy smackdown on the undead? Perhaps we'll never know...


ALICE: Why did you do this?
ANNA: I fell in love with him, Alice.
ALICE: That's the most stupid expression in the world. "I fell in love" -- as if you had no choice. There's a moment, there's always a moment; I can do this, I can give into this or I can resist it. I don't know when your moment was but I bet there was one.
ANNA: Yes, there was.
ALICE: You didn't fall in love, you gave in to temptation.
ANNA: Well you fell in love with him.
ALICE: No, I chose him. I looked in his briefcase and I found this...sandwich...and I thought, "I will give all my love to this charming man who cuts off his crusts." I didn't fall in love, I chose to.

From the play "Closer" by Patrick Marber. Which, by the way, is fantastically brilliant and beautiful and ultimately sad and tragic -- everything that a rock solid story should be. Prince George is bring their production of it to the Zone festival this year, and sadly I think I'm going to have to skip it, in spite of how much I love the play -- because of how much I love the play. Because I reckon I might very well like to direct this some day, and I'm not big on having my directorial impulses affected by anything other than the text of the script.

But I'm getting off topic.

"Closer" is a play about four people looking for love in every conceivable corner and, ultimately, finding it nowhere at all. Loneliness and sadness are what await them at the close of the show, and I think there's something unfortunately true about that. That for far too many of us, the search for love leaves us with nothing at all to hold on to.

That truth is what ultimately moved me about the play. But there is an extra sense of truth in the bit I quoted above. And I guess the reason it struck me so hard was that I'd never really thought about it before.

I've long believed -- and openly told people -- that we, as people, don't have the luxury of choosing who we love. We dont get to decide who it is that stirs something in our minds, in our hearts, in our souls. These people do, for whatever reason, right or wrong. They do. And so we love them for that, because we have no other choice.

But there is still a choice being made, because we get to choose what we do with that love. We choose to pursue it, or we choose to let it go. We choose to let it destroy us, or we choose to let it empower us.

I'm not sure if that element is something I simply didn't realize, or something I'd forgotten about, but whatever the case, I'm grateful to "Closer' to reminding me of it, because it's an important part of the equation.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


This is a test to see if creating a new post will repair my apparently damaged blog.

Here goes nuthin'.

Random 10

Would you believe I just about forgot that it was Friday? Would you believe I just about missed a Friday Random 10? Well, yeah, of course you’d believe that, because I’ve done it a whole lot of times in the past. But not tonight. Not tonight.

  1. Alabama 3 – Terra Firma Cowboy Blues – Yeah, more A3 to open the Random 10. I reckon I’ll get tired of this stuff eventually (and I’m already playing them a little less frequently at work this last week) but until then, I plan to gorge myself. Probably my favourite song from the recently acquired fifth album “Outlaw.”

  2. Nine Inch Nails – The Hand That Feeds – A fantastically raging anthem for anyone with a burning desire to say, “Fuck off!” to the powers that be. A surprising theme from someone who usually writes about for smaller and far more personal agonies.

  3. Norah Jones – Ruler of My Heart – Wow, I haven’t heard her stuff in awhile. I was binging on it for the longest time, and then *bang* nothing. Nice to have it just kind of appear out of the blue…

  4. Alabama 3 – Woke Up This Morning (Acoustic) – It’s shaping up to be a hella cool Random 3, with a random A3 song popping up in the playlist. This is the song, thanks to its use as the theme song to the Sopranos, that introduced me to their stuff (though it wasn’t this acoustic version).

  5. Adolescents – Amoeba – This sounds weirdly, vaguely familiar, but I am completely incapable of placing it. Kind of punk-ish. No idea why I have this on my hard drive.

  6. Nirvana – Lithium (Solo Acoustic, 1990) – From, I think, a 3-CD collection of rarities. It’s kind of rough around the edges, sounding a bit like an early demo of the song. What’s interesting to me is that I recognize this as one of the Nirvana songs I’m quite fond of, but I’d have never known it from the title. Nirvana stuff I know only to hear.

  7. Liz Phair – Johnny Sunshine – I can’ even remember what inspired me to download her stuff, but I recall having downloaded it, like some of it, quite a bit. Though this song doesn’t ring a bell.

  8. Radiohead – No Surprises – A live version (and one that sounds more acoustic than normal) of a really freaking phenomenal song. Can’t recall right now if the original is off of “OK Computer” or “The Bends” but I’m currently leaning towards “The Bends.” Because, you know, that’s hugely important information.

  9. Enigma – Waiting for the Hurricane – Not sure why, but I was thinking about Enigma’s stuff in the last few days. Maybe become some of their genre-blending reminded me a little of Alabama 3. Though I was thinking of something more from their first album than this which is from album number god only knows.

  10. They Might Be Giants – Nightgown of the Sullen Moon – Ah, one of those great TMBG songs that seems to, at least for me, defy interpretation. Does it somehow minimize my enjoyment of it? Not at all. It enhances it…

  11. Oingo Boingo – Capitalism – The original, and not the live version that I first heard. Musically it’s easily dated as originating in the 80s, but still a great song, and a great satirical stab at the greed of the decade that birthed the song. “There’s nothing wrong with capitalism, there’s nothing wrong with free enterprise, don’t try to make me feel guilty, I’m so tired of hearing you cry…”

Monday, April 03, 2006

Another stickage update.

Okay, so I did stick figure drama from home tonight for the first time in months. What that means is I had easy access to my FTP storage space for the images, and was able to upload last week's strip *AND* this coming week's strip.

Yup, that's right. You get the chance to check out Stick Figure Drama #94 before it appears in print. Enjoy it while you can. This won't happen often.

Be warned, though. The air frivolity will not last forever in this strip. Something dreadful is on the horizon. Something ominous. Something deadly.


And that's all the foreshadowing I feel like doing right now. Cheerio.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Random 10

It’s Saturday (and likely, technically, Sunday by the time I post this). An unexpected visit last night just as I was about to do the random 10 led to consuming beer until it was time for bed, thus forcing the postponement.

0. Alabama 3 – Converted (Remix) – I still can’t get enough of this stuff (though I’m beginning to wonder whether or not my co-workers are getting tired of hearing it). As much I listen to it, though, I can’t figure out whether their gospel-esque messages are sincere – such as the call to “go back to church” in this song (“Now this church I’m talking about, there don’t have to be a minister present; there doesn’t have to be any taking of any kind of communion; all you gotta do is be there, with the music playing, among all those people you love, dancing, and singing, right there in church…”). It’s certainly a message that rings true to me. On the other hand, they’ve also made references to the First Presleytarian Church of Elvis the Divine, so maybe there needs to be a grain of salt or two in the taking of their messages. And maybe it don’t much matter one way or the other.

1. Rick Nelson – Lonesome Town – Looking at where this has appeared in my playlist, this seems to be from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. Soundtrack albums like this can be a great way to diversify your MP3 collection. If you’re interested in diversity.

2. Depeche Mode – I Am You – From one of those handful of downloaded but never listened to DM albums. Which is among my collection of downloaded but never listened to albums in general. Will I ever learn?

3. John Philip Sousa – Track 8 – Not sure what song this is, but it’s from a CD of John Philip Sousa’s greatest hits – and yes, he does, apparently have greatest hits. Was looking for marches to use in “Welcome to the Monkey House.” This one wasn’t used, obviously, otherwise I’d probably remember what it was. What *was* used was “The Stars and Strips Forever,” just in case anyone was desperately curious.

4. Classical – De Beers Diamond Music – Not technically classical music, in spite of the artist listing. This track was used in the first play I directed – “Some Things You Need To Know Before The World Ends: A Final Evening With The Illuminati” during the prelude to the sermon scene. It’s one of my favourite music cues from that play (that, and the use of the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem during Reverend Eddie’s final showdown with death on the basketball court).

5. Erasure – In My Arms – Not sure where this is from, exactly. But it’s not familiar to me. Not a good random 10 thus far – one song from a play, one song not from a lay, and three songs I’m not really familiar with. Five songs to go. Let’s hope for some improvement.

6. Phil Collins – I Don’t Care Anymore – Ah, this one I know, and as much as I’ve lost some of my liking for Phil Collins over the years, I’ve still got a soft spot for this tune. Though maybe that’s just because I have a liking for anthems to ennui.

7. Level 42 – The Sun Goes Down – And from about the same early-80s era comes this song. This sort of falls between the cracks of my fondness for Level 42 – not entirely unlistenable, but still kind of pre-dating their really good stuff.

8. They Might Be Giants – Don’t Let’s Start – Though you can’t go wrong with TMBG from any era.

9. Track 6 – Curses to people who don’t properly fill out MP3 tags. It’s apparently the sixth track from Sheryl Crow’s “The Globe Sessions.” Let me just look that up. Okay, it’s apparently “Am I Getting Through (Part 1 and 2). Which I’m not familiar with. Either one, actually.

10. Cake – You Part the Waters – And so we end with another song I’ve never really heard, in spite of being a big Cake fan (speaking of them, I’m still looking for the perfect play to use their cover of “I Will Survive” in, because I just absolutely adore that song).

Cheerio. Let’s do this again next week, about the same time. What do you say?