Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Tonight on a very special "Stick Figure Drama"...

Two stickage updates today -- #99.5 (the filler strip, the existence for which is explained in detail here) and #101, this week's strip, which will be out in the Advisor as of tomorrow, but if you haven't seen it there yet, you can still see it here first.

Oh, and #101 includes a very special guest star. Go look!

EDIT: I almost forgot -- bonus points to anyone who can spot the obscure homage contained in episode #101. I'll give you a hint...wait, no I won't.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Central Interior Zone Drama Festival is over and I am now simultaneously relieved and sad...

During Thursday night's Festival performance of "Welcome ot the Monkey House" where, as director, my only real job was to sit back, watch the show, and see every single little thing that goes wrong, I found myself thinking at one point, "Why do I do this to myself?"

Tonight I was reminded of exactly why when "Welcome to the Monkey House," came out of festival with five -- count 'em, five -- awards.

Specifically: Best Ensemble (for the finest group of actors a director could ever hope to work with, even in spite of the fact that there were 3 red-heads in the cast), Best Actor (for Brad Hammerstron who sold two-and-a-half very different characters in his time on stage), Best Lighting (thanks for all your help and hard work, Craig!), Best Costumes (Juli, I don't need to tell you how much you rock, because I'm sure you already know, but I'll tell ya anyway -- you rock!), and Best Hair and Makeup (to Tashja, who coordinated this area of the production that was completely alien to me, and to the designers who made these characters of the 1960s come alive, thank you, thank you, thank you).

Some half-drunken photos of people at the awards to follow once appropriate people e-mail 'em to me...

Monday, May 22, 2006

It's all about the quotes...

In non-spoilery book-talk, I think I've pinned down the quotes I want to use to open part one, part two, and the epilogue of "Waiting for a Miracle" -- and I'm surprised that I haven't done this already. Finding appropriate quotes has always been one of my favourite book-writing side projects, and yet this one has been quoteless for almost a year.

And then, while I was skim-reading this weekend, I loaded up Leonard Cohen's "The Future" album -- which contains the song "Waiting for the Miracle" from which I kinda stole the title to the novel -- and listened while I read along. And as I listened, I few lines from a few different songs that seemed to hit at what I was going for with the different parts of the book.

And how wonderfully appropriate it would be if I could pull all the quotes from the one album that inspired the title.

Part Tne's quote:
“I lift my glass to the awful truth
Which you cant reveal to the ears of youth
Except to say it isn’t worth a dime”

Part Two's quote:
"Nothing left to do
when you know
that you've been taken
Nothing left to do
when you're begging for a crumb
Nothing left to do
when you've got to go on waiting
waiting for the miracle to come"

And the Epilogue's quote:
"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."

Nothing much to note here, particularly if you haven't read the book -- as most of you visiting haven't. Although you might find this interesting for trivia's sake. Or simply because Cohen's got an undeniable way with words.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Hindsight being what it is...

I've been skim-reading my way through 2004's National Novel Writing Month novel -- "Waiting for a Miracle" -- for the last few days, trying to refresh my memory of it. I've got someone reading it now, with an editor's eye, and so I thought it might be nice to review my own material in case the editor in question had questions for me.

What I found while skimming it was kind of surprising.

While writing it, I had been afraid that the second half of the book was overly draggy. That it was too long, and took its time getting to where it needed to be. That was my biggest concern about pacing. What I actually found, though, was that it actually travelled too fast. It got us to places sooner than it should have, that there wasn't enough of a sense of mystery going on.

Right now, the book is broken up into two approximate halves -- appropriately titled Part One and Part Two. The first part explains the back story of the main character, a miserable alcholic man who may or may not be able to perform miracles. The second part of the book is the story of a female reporter tracking him down in order to write a story on these supposed miracles.

The problem is, it very much feels like she tracks him down too fast.

Looking at it now, I almost think it should be three parts. The first part identical to what it is now, with the backstory. The second part should be a longer and mysterious search for the miserable drunkard. And the third part could be what happens between the reporter and the drunkard when she finally finds him.

The only sort of structural headache to that is the fact that each of the two parts has a different narrator -- the miracleman in part one, and the journalist in part two. If I went with three parts, it would seem sort of strange to have one narrator for one part, and another for two parts. An inequity in narration, sort of. Like there should actually be three different narrators. But because there aren't three really vital characters (well, there are, but the third one really, really wouldn't work as a narrator) there's no third party to drag onto the job.

I think I *did* figure out, though, how to stretch out the second part of the book without adding pointless padding.

The reason it moves ahead too quickly is that the journalist's story ultimately becomes her quest for the miracleman's story, which moves us forward into his world, and into the discovery of his life and lifestyle, far too quickly. However, if she had her own story -- her own character arc to pass through -- while she was also hunting down the miracleman for her editor, there could be occasional distractions from her own story.

And, in fact, without that she's not much more than a literary gimmick through which we view a character -- in a way, she's only there to illustrate the difference between the way the main character sees himself, and how other people see him.

It wouldn't even be that hard to do. She already has a sort of character arc in the story, just not one that was particularly well fleshed out at the beginning. It was something I stumbled onto as I went along. Fleshing that character arc out is something I could probably almost do in my sleep.

But it's going to probably require a fair amount of rewriting work on the second half of the book. But I think the second half would require that rewriting anyway -- it's not as clean as I'd hoped it was. A lot of it reads quite weak. The first half, on the other hand, is surprisingly strong for a first draft and is, I think, some of the best writing I've ever done in anything, in any medium, and won't require much in the way of cleaning at all.

Even the pacing of it seems spot on. in spite of the fact that I was just groping around for ideas and plot threads at the time. I actually think I had a stronger idea of the second half before starting it than I did of the first half, and yet it's the first half that seems more natural, more cohesive, more right.

I guess that's just the way things work out sometimes.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

On the bright side...

In the end, though, something good may have come out of my outing to see “The DaVinco Code” tonight (see previous entry for more details on that)…an idea for a short story.

I went for a coffee at Tim Horton’s after the film with the Vanderhoof friend and his wife. It was about 9:30 at night, and there were only a handful of people there, but I found myself wondering, who is it that goes and drinks coffee at 9:30 at night? Who drinks coffee at 11:00 at night? Or 1:00 in the morning?

And then a mailbox, upon which was printed: All other destinations.

I’m not exactly sure where I’m going yet, but I’m seeing a group of people who force insomnia onto themselves in an attempt to expand their consciousness, to see the world around in the a different – and bigger – way. And someone who, while suffering in the midst of his own legitimate insomnia attack, stumbles upon this group. And who possibly manages to stumble onto the very thing that they’re looking for.

It’s too late to start messing around with it now, sadly, but it definitely feels like an idea worth playing with. Insomnia isn’t exactly one of my current creative obsessions, but I’ve had enough experience with it that it might be worth playing with creatively.

We’ll see.

Exposition and car chases

So I went to see “The DaVinci Code” tonight, which was kind of a surprise as I had absolutely no interest in the film, which stemmed in part from the fact that I had absolutely no interest in the book. On top of that, the fact that I have little to no interest in Tom Hanks as an actor should have kept me out of the theatre.

But a friend of mine was passing through town from Vanderhoof this weekend, and he called to see if I wanted to go, and was willing to buy my ticket. So off I went thinking, at the very least, I could make fun of the movie if the movie didn’t provide much in the way of fun itself.

Which I actually did for awhile. Until I started to feel guilty that I was maybe ruining the movie-going experience for other people.

To be sure, “The DaVinco Code” is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’m also tempted to say that it’s a bad adaptation, in spite of the fact that I’ve never read the book. I say this because the film feels like a adaptation from a book at just about every single point. Which is a bad sign. If you’ve adapted the novel properly, your film should feel like a film, not a badly adapted novel.

Ultimately, the biggest problem with the film – and this could very well be the biggest problem with the book too – is that nothing terribly interesting happens. A bunch of people sit around at different locations and talk about The Knights Templar and the Priory of Scion and the Holy Grail and the bloodline of Jesus. And then, just when the film has been dragging so long that you think you might actually nod off, the throw in a car chase! Holy excitement, Batman! And then, when the oh-so-exciting chase scene is finished, it’s back to people sitting around talking again.

Exposition and car chases does not a movie make.

It might have been easier to sit through if the dialogue had been interesting. But it wasn’t. At more points than I could possibly count, the dialogue took on the heavy, clunky tone that comes from a weak writer attempting to push out too many ideas too quickly. WATCH as Tom Hanks and Ian McKellen awkwardly debate the presence of Mary Magdalene in DaVinci’s depiction of the Last Supper. FEEL the absence of tension in the scene. MARVEL as some of Hollywood’s finest manage to keep themselves from looking completely embarrassed at the drivel they’re forced to spout.

On the topic, it should be noted that Ian McKellen was the saving grace of the film, who managed to make the whole thing at least survivable. He was charming and funny in spite of dialogue that was anything but, and did a fine job reminding the audience that he’s a damn fine actor, regardless of the strength of the film or the role.

Besides McKellen, about the only thing I can offer positively about The DaVinco Code is that it wasn’t as long as King Kong. And it was mildly more intellectually stimulating.

Here’s a quick note to screenwriters, both those of the up-and-coming variety, as well as those who are already working within the Hollywood system: Expositionary dialogue works in novels because novels are ultimately a literary medium. It doesn’t matter that a bunch of people sitting around in a room talking isn’t visually interesting. Books don’t have to be visually interesting. Movies do.

And if your movie isn’t visually interesting, a handful of car chases isn’t going to help a whole lot, as much as you’d like to think otherwise.

While the argument for the existence of a descendant of Jesus walking among us today are intriguing and worth at least considering, , “The DaVinci Code” manages to make them seem like anything but. And that is perhaps its greatest crime – taking an interesting idea and turning into something mind-numbingly dull.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hello, Void.

I had to say goodbye today. That's not something I enjoy doing at the best of times, as I'm sure is the case for most people. And this wasn't the best of times.

Everyone in your life ends up at some level of a hierarchy, whether you admit it or not, whether you think about it consciously or not. You've got acquaintances, friends, good friends, great friends, and then you've got those people around you that you simply can't imagine not having around. Those people that, without them, would leave a massive, gaping void in your life where their presence used to be.

It was one of those friends that I had to say goodbye to today.

She's been around at just about every job I've had in the last fifteen years -- spending a few months with me at the Cariboo Advocate many, many years ago, a few years with me during my tenure at the Tribune, and most recently the last four and a half years at the Advisor.

She left for Kamloops today. Hello and new and terrifying void in my life. I imagine you and I will be getting fairly well acquainted over the next few months.

When you work beside someone that long -- and it's someone who is that dear a friend to you -- they are in your life constantly. Daily. She was around to laugh with during the good times, and around to sympathize with in the bad. And I'd be remiss if I didn't say that, through some of those bad times, it was her more than anyone else who kept me going.

She's not dead, I tell myself. She's just in Kamloops. It's not that far away. And technology these days is great -- she's got e-mail, she's got a cell phone, youc an keep in touch. What's the big deal?

What *is* the big deal?

The big deal, I think, is that keeping in touch, while nice, is nowhere near the same as being able to just randomly bump into someone in the hallway and share a quick laugh with them, or stop by their office on your way out the door and see if they want to go for a drink. These sort of casual connections you can make with someone that close to you, who is that firmly planted in your life, are among the things that people -- myself included -- take for granted, never considering that the day would one day come when it's no longer possible to just bump into them in the hallway, or stop by their office on your way out the door.

This has been weighing on me for three days now, and today it broke, with the hug, with tears, with the real, raw realization that this era we had shared together that had spanned more than a decade was over. With all of that, and with the good-bye.

I have a column still to write tonight, and an e-mail to compose after that, but I'm not looking forward to either. My head is thick and foggy and I just can't think straight. I want to be in bed or staring at the television or reading a book or doing anything other than thinking, because just about every thought right now brings me back to this situation, this loss, and this void. This void that is so fresh and new that I don't even feel it yet. I just know that it's there. And that I'll start to notice it more and more each and every day.

One of our former employees in 100 Mile House used to call the two of us "The Bickersons," joking that when we argued work-related stuff we often sounded like an old married couple. The two of us would occasionally joke that we'd stick together until our dying days, aging into cantankerous old farts who sat on the porch and yelled obscenities at the damn-fool kids who strayed too far onto our lawn.

It was a nice thought, as absurd and unrealistic as it was. Time intervenes. Life intervenes. And no matter how much time was spent being that intensely glued together, it simply wasn't going to last. Something eventually pulls one or the other away, into something new, into something different, into something better. And eventually the other finds that he or she simply can not follow along this time.

Still, it's fun to dream while the dreaming's good.

See you around, dear friend. God willing, may we be lucky enough to one day share a hallway again, where we can share a quick, random laugh. Until then, I will miss those, and the countless thousands of other moments that we've shared. Because I'm pretty sure that this void isn't going to be anywhere near as entertaining.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

NOW IT CAN BE TOLD: The story of why Stick Figure Drama #100 was bumped a week, and the chaos that followed

I've been planning Stick Figure Drama #100 for -- I kid you now -- months now. The strip has been complete for more than six weeks, just waiting for this week's issue of the paper. Everything was on track, or so I thought.

When I handed page six of the paper to our editor this morning, he laughed. He laughed because my cartoon -- which depicted a tombstone with the name "PETEY" on it -- was sitting next to his editorial, announcing the grand opening of "Speedy Petey's Car Wash and Lightning Lube". His editorial was on the topic, because we were running a four-page spread in the paper promoing the opening.

The cartoon, sitting next to that editorial, appeared to give the appearance that the cartoonist was predicting the death of this newly announced endeavour named "Petey".

This was obviously not the case. It was simply an unfortunate circumstance.

I volunteered to yank the potentially offensive cartoon and hold it until next week. Then I realized that the same cartoon had already run in 100 Mile and in Quesnel, so I needed to make sure that whatever I replaced this week's cartoon with in Williams Lake would also have to function as next week's cartoon in Quesnel and 100 Mile (while the tombstone cartoon runs in Williams Lake) to prevent the three communities from getting out of synch.

I also had to do a cartoon that did no use the word "Petey" in order to avoid any further confusion.

I had a few ideas in my head over the course of the day, and finally settled one, which I'll post here later tonight or tomorrow.

At this point, I feel as if I should say something about the best laid plans of mice and men (and, I suppose, badgers), but I truly do abhor cliches, so I'll just leave it alone.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Stickage #100

It's been two years in the making. At last it can be revealed.


You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder why you've wasted your time reading this crap.

To those of you who've been a tad confused by the current storyline, fear not. A new and (hopefully) far more accessible story arc starts next week. For now, let's all celebrate the absurdity of the fact that, over the last two years, no one has yet tried to end the reign of Stick Figure Drama.

Viva le stick!

Teh shit

You ever have those days that are just so overwhelmingly dreadful that you can't even talk about them? That to even put them into words would create such a harsh reminder of how dreadful that 24-hour period was, it would make your head explode? Yeah, I had one of those today. And no, I'm not going to put the day into words. Because if I did, my head would explode.

This year has been so fucked it's not even funny. Ups and downs and peaks and valleys, and I know that's a part of life, but it seems like so much of this facet of life has been crammed into a 365-day period that I just can't keep up, I can't think straight, I can't even breathe. I'm dizzy, I'm nauseated, I'm giddy, I'm ecstatic. I'm filled with joy and filled with misery. I don't know whether to laugh or cry right now, and I feel like if I let go, I'd do both at the same the time.

Change is hard. Change is good. Change is terrifying. We get stuck in a rut sometimes, and it's comfortable riding in that rut, and when I'm in that rut, however comfortable it is, I hate it. I hate it because I know I'm in that rut, and that I'm there only *because* it's comfortable. But when you get knocked out of that rut, and you're veering all over the road because you've been in the rut so long that you can't even remember how to steer, that's terrifying. It makes your heart beat and your blood pump, but it's terrifying.

I had the weirdest sense lats August that I was slipping into what would be the strangest, most surreal, and somehow most exciting year of my life. So far that prediction hasn't been wrong. And there's still three months to go.

Can't wait to see what happens next.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mobloggin' the relay

I'm at the relay for life tonight, and as I'll have my blackberry with me, there's a pretty decent chance I'll end up doing some moblogging. It'll be appearing at the theatre's blog if I do, so go look over there.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

This is an update

It's 10:45 pm and I just finished splashing fake blood on a white lab coat in preparation for tomorrow night's relay for life.

I was surprised by the blood's consistency -- thicker than I was expecting. So I had these thick, slug-like gobs of blood on the lab coat, which just looked kind of dumb. Then I realized that it dribbles kind of well, so I've tried to prop the coat up kind of vertically, so it can dribble down the front of the coat. Which is actually working kind of well, except for the stuff near the bottom, because I can't get it quite vertical enough.

And, watching it dribble makes me think I maybe used too much. Which is too bad, because I've got nothing left for my goggles.

I'm trying to get all my last minute preparations done. I'm charging batteries for my crap-ass digital camera right now. As soon as they're charged, I've gotta charge the batteries for my MP3 player. After that...hm, after that I'm not sure what I have to do. Does this mean I'm almost done?

I've got to go and buy glow-sticks and some kind of food tomorrow. I have no idea what to buy. Something non-perishable, or something. Cans of beans? Spam? Wait, no, I think Spam causes cancer, so that's probably a no-no.


Those little mini corn on the cob things?

Where do those come from?

What am I talking about?

Why is there no happy medium in my life? Why does it seem that I'm either too busy to even breathe properly, or sitting around for days on end with nothing to do? Is this just a problem with scheduling? Or is life really that big a roller-coaster ride?

Did you know that you should really wash the oil off of an olive before putting it in a martini? I didn't know that. If you don't, you get a greasy martini. Nobody likes that.

Okay, bye.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Dual Stickage

I missed last week's stick figure drama update, mostly because I wasn't actually doing the cartoon from home on the weekend (I did four weeks worth at one sitting a few weeks back). So, now officially updated are last week's strip, and the strip for this coming week (the one that'll appear in the paper on Wednesday). Yet another sneak peek for all your rabid fans who just can't wait for it.

In retrospect, I'm beginning to think that if I'd had any idea at the time how bizarre the resolution for this phase of the Compu-Zilla storyline was going to turn out to be, I probably would have just stayed the heck away.

And to those of you who aren't entirely sure what's going on, even though you read it faithfully every week, allow me to apologize for the fact that apparently you need a mensa-level memory in order to keep up with this stupid thing.

Stripper Music

Without a doubt, one of the greatest things about the Internet is that, whoever you are, whatever you're interested, and whatever you might be doing for a living, there's a place online for you. Someplace where you can go to talk with others of a similar mindset, to ask questions from others of a similar profession, or simply lament with others who've experienced similar troubles.

Even if you happen to be, say, a stripper.

Now, I know you're wondering, "Todd, why are you interested in Web sites dedicated to the profession of stripping?" I know you're wondering that because I'd be wondering the same thing if I were in your shoes. And before we go any further, let me ease your mind and assure you that it's not because I'm planning a career change. My instincts tell me that the stripping industry probably isn't for me (and audiences around the world rejoice).

The reason I've been looking into strippers -- and, more specifically, stripper music -- is because of a play I've proposed to direct next season, called "Closer." By Patrick Marber, the play tells the story of four people looking for love, but who seem to find only betrayal and sorrow.

One of the characters is a stripper, and one of the scenes takes place in a private room at the strip club where she works. But musical accompaniment for this one scene is only a small part of what I'm looking for.

I was trying to dig up a musical theme for the play -- something to play during the intro and intermission -- when I stumbled upon the idea of using stripper music. If it manages to set the right ambiance, it could create a mood of casual sexuality without any legitmate emotion attached, which is a perfect mood for a play like "Closer." Additionally, a lot of the stripper music I've found seems to be of the lost-love or not-true-love variety that would mesh nicely with the text of the play.

What's been most interesting about this endeavour, though, is realizing some of the variety of material that is considered "stripper music." On some level, I think I was expecting to find a simple top ten lest of best stripper songs. Not so. The closest I've found was a list of the most overplayed songs in strip clubs, which is probably just about the same as a list of the most cliched stripper songs, which is probably what I was looking for with a "best of" because that, ultimately, translates to "most recognized."

Sure, some of the songs were obvious. Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" for example seems like an obvious strip club staple. And songs by Enigma didn't come as a surprise to me. But I wasn't expecting to see Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" and "Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing" or Fiona Apple's "Criminal" (there seems something weird about the idea of hearing Fiona Apple in a strip club, actually).

And did you know -- I never would have even *guessed* -- that "Hotel California" is so overplayed that it is many, many strippers least favourite song? It's been *SO* overplayed, that Guns N Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" is considered a post-modern version of it (and just as overplayed).

All of this information came to me courtesy of the StripperWeb -- "The largest and most active EXOTIC DANCER and STRIP CLUB resource worldwide!"

And we love you for it, StripperWeb.

The music search goes well, by the way. I'm currently about 34 tracks that I need to start whittling down into semi-finalists. Before I get to that point, though, I'm thinking I might actually post a message in the StripperWeb forums myself and explain what I'm doing, and why I'm there, and see what sort of diverse music gets recommended to me by those who know the industry better than anyone. Because they're in it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Random 10

Okay, so it’s been a couple of weeks since I did this. Doesn’t mean I’ll never do it again. As should be apparent by this very post right here.

  1. Kidney Thieves – Crazy – I’ve been listening to a lot of “stripper music” lately (look for a future update to explain this) and have been endlessly surprised by what I’ve stumbled upon that fits the description of “stripper music.” I’ve had kind of a thing for the Kidney Thieves for a few years, but this particular track hadn’t entered my collection until it came up as a stripper song recommendation. And I’m incredibly glad that it did, because it’s an amazing and entirely unexpected cover of the Patsy Cline song.

  2. Jewel – Winter Wonderland – I have a vague memory of downloading random Christmas albums last year, in some sort of twisted (likely drunken) burst of seasonal inspiration. I’m inclined to think that this song exists on my hard drive for that reason.

  3. Roxette – Listen to You Heart – I can’t remember now if this was a “Movie Ballad” Roxette song or just a “Ballad Ballad” Roxette song. I’m inclined to think just “Ballad Ballad” even though it could have so easily been a “Movie Ballad.”

  4. Various Artists – Gorilla – I love having rips of sound effects CDs on my hard drive. The weirdest stuff comes up during random playlists.

  5. Madonna – Like A Prayer – Wasn’t this song used to shill Pepsi at one point?

  6. Artur Sullivan – HMS Pinafore, Oveture – Much like having rand sound effects crop up, I’m just as likely to have random classical songs that I’ve never heard before pop up. I love my MP3 collection.

  7. Collective Soul – No More, No Less – I’m very quickly reaching a point where I’ll be inclined to say that this is the most retarded Random 10 I’ve ever done. Nothing against Collective Soul, I’ve just never heard this song before. Big surprise.

  8. Evanescence – Imaginary – Okay, this one I’ve actually heard, this one I actually know. But I haven’t got much to say except that, while this isn’t among them, some of Evanescence’s stuff makes for damn fine stripper music. Apparently. This is what I hear, at any rate.

  9. Elton John & Billy Joel – I’m not sure entirely why this happens, but it seems that, in spite of having a fair amount of Elton John on my hard drive, the only stuff that ever comes up is from my one album of him dueting with Billy Joel. Is that weird, or what?

  10. Nine Inch Nails – Sin (Short) – A remix from the “Pretty Hate Machine” album. And another artist that fits into the “stripper music” category. Can you tell I’ve been thinking an awful lot about stripper music lately?

  11. Howard Jones – Equality – I was quite fond of Howard Jones – and the political commentary he attempted to make in some of his early music – when I was young. I have to admit, though, that years later, some of this stuff just seems kind of heavy-handed and amateurish. Like that Academy Award winning film “Crash.”

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Kids these days...

I'm speechless. Really, I am. And there are tears in my eyes.


Kids these days. It's almost enough to make you think there might be hope for mankind.