Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Badger badger badger.
I stumbled upon the rare, inherited disorder -- which, essentially, is a total, irreversable, and incurable form of insomnia, that you get to suffer from until you go insane and die -- while searching for information on the far more vanilla form of insomnia, because I'm considering a story or novel involving the topic, and was curious, specifically, about the world record for sleep deprivation (in the area of 10 to 12 days, for straight insomnia, which may or may not be long enough for what I have in mind for this story -- it'd probably only end up being 7-10 chapters, as I'd intend each chapter as one day of insomnia, until the spell finally broke, but then again, it's fiction, so I can push it longer if necessary).
But I digress. Back to this creepy, tragic way of dying.
Back to the Wiki entry on the disease:
The age of onset is variable, ranging from 30 to 60, with an average of 50. Death usually occurs between 7 to 36 months from onset. The presentation of the disease varies considerably from person to person, even among patients from within the same family.
Let's stop and think about that for a second.
Death usually occurs 7 to 36 MONTHS from onset. That's 7 to 36 MONTHS without sleep. That's 7 to 36 MONTHS of slowly losing your mind, becoming increasingly anxious, phobic, and paranoid.
If it wasn't for the fact that I already have a fairly good idea of where I want to go with this insomnia book -- and, unfortunately, it involves the character eventually falling asleep -- I would incredibly pumped about writing about this disorder. It's just so...terrifying.
I only hope I can sleep tonight, with this particular thing on my mind.
So the last three weeks of stick is now updated under the stickage navigator. That includes this week technically-published-but-you-still-might-not-have-seen-it-yet strip.
[Spoilers follow -- go read the stupid strip first, it'll only take you a second]
Speaking of that strip, here's a bit of trivia: the last two panels were actually drastically rewritten at the last minute, to include an Abba karaoke reference instead of a bizarre and obscure They Might Be Giants musical reference (I planed to refer to Petey as a "Wicked little critter" -- which, actually, I still want to do at some other point in the future).
This rewriting also allowed me to get them into the Dart for next week, instead of having them stand around for yet *another* week before beginning the road trip, which I think is a good thing. I'd like to get them to Lefty before, say, the end of the year.
In rewriting, though, I found that Tracy had pretty much zero to say with the new didalogue, which is pretty much the only reason that she shouts out, "Shotgun!"
Also, the paramedic has a black eye for reasons of continuity. And he doesn't say anything because he's all pissy about it.
ALSO...the more I think about it, the more that filler strip #99.5 is bugging me. I don't think it's terribly clear what is supposed to be going on in the strip (Weird Bob stumbling onto Petey's invisible little corpse), nor am I even entirely sure that I still want that to be what was going on in that panel. Really, when you get right down to it, it could be just bout anything.
I think, long term, one of two things will happen with that strip. I'll either A) try to pretend it never happened, and scrub its existence from my mind; or B) Retcon the bejeezus out of it, and make it mean something entirely different. Dunno what quite yet.
Anyway, enough stick figure creator ramblings. Tune in next week for exciting road-trip humour.
It takes a few minuts to boot up because I have a lot of applications that load at startup -- instant messengers, video utilities, anti-virus apps, firewalls, things like that. Some of them are hangers-ons from previous days, applications I know longer use but haven't gotten around to removing yet. Others are loaded almost out of nostalgia -- in spite of my awareness that I no longer use it, it seems strange to not have it running anymore.
ICQ is one of those programs.
ICQ was the first major internet instant messaging application, and thus has been around longer than all the others, even though over the years many of the others -- like MSN Messenger -- have become far more popular.
There was a time once where 99% of my contacts were on ICQ, and I only had MSN installed for or two people who refused to use anything else. Fine, I'd think, I can have two chat apps installed without too much of a hassle.
A few months back, the last person I actually talked to in ICQ finally switched to MSN, and now my ICQ loads up every time my computer starts for no reason at all.
While I was waiting for my computer to reboot today, staring at all the programs starting during the boot-up process, I thought about removing ICQ. It's not really do much except taking up hard drive space and valuable system resources.
But then I thought about birthdays.
One of the neat features of ICQ (and maybe MSN has this too -- I'm not sure) is that, when someone on your contact list is approaching a birthday, you'll get a reminder. A crppy little snippet of "happy birthday" will play over your speakers, and a little icon flashing in your system tray will tell you that someone on your list is about to celebrate a birthday. And it gives you three days warning to go, "Oh, crap, I almost forgot it was their birthday!" and run out and buy them something nice.
And then I got to thinking about all these people on my ICQ contact list -- some of whom have been on there for close to ten years, and many of whom haven't been online in ICQ in five -- and how, in a way, it's a tiny little ghostly fragment of who they are. Their name is there. Their email address is there. Their birthday is there. And, if they haven't moved or changed occupations, their addresses and places of employment are there.
And whether they've been online or not, all that information still exists.
The idea manages to be simultaneously creepy and comforting. Creepy, because it's like someone is spying into your life -- or what your life was the last time you updated your ICQ profile. And comforting because, in a way, it's an acknowledgement that this person existed. They could wander into the forest and disappear without a trace, and yet this tiny little chunk of information that my computer has access to proves that they did, in fact, exist once. They were real. They were my friends. They had birthdays and addresses and home and work contact numbers.
It's a uniquely 21st century way of validating your existence.
So ICQ remains on my hard drive, and will for the foreseeable future (meaning, likely, until my next hard drive reformat). Because I like the birthday reminders. And because I like having access to these strange, digital ghosts of those who have come and gone, but who still remain embedded in my memory.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Smoking causes cancer.
Body Modification doesn't.
I'm left to assume that this is not only a comment on the blog entry, but a comment on a column I recently wrote on body modification, in which I said some less than flattering things about the practice. In the column I chose to connect more common forms of body modification, like piercing, with some of the more non-traditional, like chopping off your toes to varying lengths, or intentionally getting shot. And then implied that there was something a little bit nuts about all of it.
Which, you know, I still sort of agree with. In spite of the fact that, yes, body modification doesn't cause cancer. Because in and of itself, that's really not a terribly good reason to do something. There's plenty of things that don't cause cancer that you still shouldn't do. Running razor blades up and down your arms doesn't give you cancer. Shooting heroin doesn't give you cancer. Eating things like rocks or soil doesn't give you cancer. And these are all things that people do, for a variety of reasons. And yes, it's usually because they're messed up in some way.
As for my smoking, it's not without its messed up reasons, which are best described by author, humourist, and all-around smart-guy, Kurt Vonnegut.
"The public health authorities never mention the main reason many Americans have for smoking heavily, which is that smoking is a fairly sure, fairly honorable form of suicide."
There's a reason that I'm drawn back to smoking at times of great stress or great depression. It's because it allows me to feel like I'm actually participating in the act of ending my life. Just in a way that actually takes awhile to accomplish. And one in which, if I ever got my act together, and ever felt positive and successful enough for a lengthy enough period of time, I could still probably shake before it had done any sort real long term damage.
So there you have it, Mr. Anonymous: You might have been a little uncomfortable with my attempts to point fingers at your pathology, but aren't we a little bit more even now that I've poked a finger at my own?
Sunday, June 25, 2006
But I don't have it in me to discuss it now.
I had a weird moment the other day, though, when I flashed back to memories of my first apartment -- a crappy, studio-style place, divided with walls that didn't quite reach to the ceiling, that was located in an industral area of town (near Scout Island, in fact) and was, most likely, not even a legal place to live.
And I found myself thinking of that place, and of where I live now -- how I lived then with two roommates, making my share of the rent about $100 a month, and how I'm now carrying an $800 mortgage, though that's recently been aided with the arrival of a renter.
And it was one of those funny moments where I had to admit that, for the most part, I've been mostly successful in my life. Which is funny, because so much of the time I feel like a massive failure.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Of course, I already had one new book to read, and two others – purchased even earlier – already on the go. Not to mention a collection of short stories purchased sometime last year that I still have yet to get through.
So, knowing that I was hard at work to ensure that I had a ton of books I’d never get around to reading, I focused my energies on finishing the last third of Peter Straub’s “In the Night Room” tonight. And I was glad I did.
Glad I had bought it too – I almost didn’t considering my last attempt at a Straub novel (Mr. X) left me less than thrilled. I had missed his next novel – “Lost Boy, Lost Girl” – and when I saw “In the Night Room” on the shelf, I struggled with whether to buy it. I’ve always been a big fan of Straub, his “Shadowland” among my favourite books of all time, but it was difficult to shake the bad taste that “Mr. X” had left in my mouth.
More than anything else, “In the Night Room” is a writer’s novel. Granted, I’m sure the twists and turns of the story would be entertaining to anyone who gave the book a chance, someone familiar with the processes – and sacrifices – of writing will get oh so much more out of it.
At the heart of it, the novel is a reminder to writers to respect the lives of the fictional characters they create and breathe life into, because in its own way, that process of writing is creation, of a sort. And those things that you breathed life into, didn’t live until the moment you breathed life into them.
I was reminded of a character I had written in a novel a few years ago – a novel I never got around to finishing – who I intended to kill at the end of the novel, only because she needed to die in order to teach the protagonist a lesson. And I couldn’t help but wonder, if I was writing that novel right now, if maybe I would give that creation a bit more respect, and let her have the life that she had fought so hard to have, instead of yanking it away as nothing more than a plot device.
“In the Night Room” also looks at the respect writers must give to the real world, which they mine day and night for material to use in their fiction. It’s a reminder that their source material, however fictionalized it may become, must be treated fairly as well. Simply slapping the label of “fiction” on something does not absolve you from bastardizing and poisoning the original, real-world source of that work.
It’s interesting to see a writer that in tune with the creative process, asking questions of that creative process, and that willing to strip it bare – and, in many ways, criticize himself. I’m now quite eager to get my hands on the Straub novel I managed to miss.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
But what’s bugging me about the story right now is that I don’t see a really obvious love story angle for it. And having said in the past that all great stories are, ultimately, love stories, I really feel that unless I find that love story hook for this one, it’s never going to be everything that it could be. I do have a notion for a love story element, but it’s messy and dysfunctional, and I’m not sure that I want to go in that direction. Everything else around this character is going to be messy and dysfunctional. If there’s going to be a love story, it should be his one stability.
Strangely, I love both stories.
Those of you more closely acquainted with my bitter and jaded side might it odd to think that I’d enjoy a movie like Moulin Rouge, but I’ve said before that I think all good stories are ultimately love stories on some level. You can have all the explosions and car chases and zombies and aching existentialist drama that you want, if you haven’t got a love story in there somewhere, it’s simply never going to be a *great* story.
And bear in mind that when I say that all great stories are love stories, I’m not saying that all love stories should have happy endings. Sometimes love ends tragically. Sometimes it ends painfully. Sometimes it ends angrily. Sometimes it ends with violence. Sometimes it ends quietly.
Those are all things that we can relate to, and in relating to them, relate to those characters.
Though Moulin Rouge ends in tragedy, the love story it depicts is the kind we’re all used to seeing in films and books – the fairy-tale love story of a true love, that knows no bounds, that will live until the end of time. Which, unfortunately, is a fairy-tale 99% of the time. Which is why its so appealing when we see it up on the screen, and are given the chance to dream about it for two hours.
I wrote a column a few years ago about research that had been done that indicated that women who grew up reading fairy-tales about this sort of true love were more prone to end up in abusive relationships. Which is sort of sad, if you think about those women waiting for their ugly, violent, horrible husbands to finally turn into the Prince Charming they believe, in their hearts, that they can be.
But they won’t be. Because most love stories turn out like they do in Closer. With pain and betrayal and lies and tears. Which is, for an entirely opposing reason, why people can relate to a story like that. Because they’ve lived it, or something similar, at least once in their lives. They recognize the words and the intentions and actions, because they’ve been there themselves.
The one issue I have with Closer is that, when you strip all that ugliness away, there’s very little warmth left at the heart of it, which is too bad, because no matter how terribly a love story might turn out, it was always – at one point – a love story. The sort of love that feels almost like a fairy-tale, that you hope might last forever, but in your heart you know will fade. That’s always where it starts, before things turn sour, but there’s so little of that in Closer. I think maybe if there was more of it, the play would ring even more profoundly true, but then you’ve only got so much time to tell your story too.
But in Moulin Rouge, once you strip away the glitz and the spectacle and the over-the-top fairy tale, what your left with is a very simple message, and a powerful and important one. One that we can all take to heart, and think about every once and awhile.
The great thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.
Not matter where your love goes, no matter what the future holds for it, its enough that it existed in the first place.
That’s something that Dan, Larry, Alice and Anna could have spent some time thinking about.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
My association with this story has been complicated to say the least.
I've made it a policy to avoid seeing productions of things I have an interest in directing. I believe very strongly in bringing a unique vision to a play, a vision that came directly from me, untainted by outside influences. I've always felt that was what art was about. Bringing something to life that had never lived in quite that way before. There is no more extraordinary a feeling than that.
Seeing "Closer" at festival this year was a tough decision, even after my directing proposal had been rejected, because the rejection didn't change the fact that I still wanted to direct it. But I went. And surprisingly, I found my reaction wasn't so much of the "wow, that's really cool, I'll definitely have to do that!" variety, and more of the, "Huh, I wouldn't have done it quite that way," type.
So, coming away from seeing the play, and feeling like my artistic vision had not been compromised, I decided to watch the film. Because, having already seen the play, I decided to take a different approach to this one.
Instead of locking myself away from other takes on something I want to do, I want to drown myself in it. I want to enrich my understanding of the material. And where the play made me think of things I wouldn't do, the movie made me think...not so much of things I *would* do, but it made me look at certain scenes, certain moments, certain characters, differently.
And ultimately, it's just left me wanting to direct the play that much more.
The film, as a film, stumbles a little. A lot of the dialogue -- which, for the most part, is verbatim from the play -- seems a little awkward on screen. And a few powerful, beautiful moments (like Alice's decision to give all her love to Dan because he cuts the crusts of his sandwiches) are thrown away, which is unfortunate. The film shifts the time, and direction, of another pivotal moment, though I'm still undecided if it's an improvement or a detriment. And they tossed out the final scene, which was definitely a loss.
Regardless of the changes, though, the heart of the story remains the same: that people are cruel animals. That they will destroy anything and anyone in their path seeking their own happines. Thank God the moral of the story is that damnation ultimately awaits them at the end of that path.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Quitting during the production of a two-section, 52-page paper appears to be both good and bad. Half the time I'm too busy to think about smoking, which is good. The other half is so filled with stress that I can't think of anything *but* smoking...
Sent via BlackBerry on the Bell Mobility network because I am teh kewlz0rz.
Time will tell, though, whether it's a good idea to try and quit smoking during the production of a two-section, 52-page newspaper.
Though, I suppose, as some have mentioned in the past, "Is there a good time to quit smoking?" No, probably not.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
I was surprised to learn that incidences of depression are significantly higher in people who smoke than in people who don't smoke.
This came as a surprise, at least partly, because whenever I try to quit smoking, it tends to be depressive feelings of one kind or another that get me craving a cigarette again (depressive feelings which are ultimately made worse by the smoking itself, because then I feel like a failure, and I beat myself up for being a failure, which makes me smoke more, etc., etc.)
It's been a few years since the first time I tried to quit, when I managed three months of success before falling off the wagon again, and I can't remember whether I felt any more or less inclined to depression from not smoking. But it's something I'll be trying to take notice of this time around, if I can manage to keep myself butted out for longer than two days at a time.
Having experienced two different (though eerily similar) zombie dreams in the past few months, I'm inclined to think that the two are related and, in fact, I suspect they're about quitting smoking.
If I had to guess, the zombies would represent my cigarette habit (an inescapable force that's intent on taking my life). In both dreams, my primary concern was whether I had enough ammo to properly defend myself against them. That seems like a pretty obvious representation of fears that I won't be able to kick the habit.
I don't recall ever having something this close to a recurring dream before, so I really am inclined to think these symbols meaningful, and not just random, unconscious brain firings...
Sent via BlackBerry on the Bell Mobility network because I am teh kewlz0rz.
I seem to be having one of those "my job makes me physically ill" days. Either that or I have stomach cancer. I almost kinda hope it's the cancer. I think that'd be easier to deal with.
Sent via BlackBerry on the Bell Mobility network because I am teh kewlz0rz.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Having dabbled with quitting on more than one occasion, I know I've got four primary triggers.
2. Drinking (as in booze, not just liquid in general)
The eating's easy enough to handle if I eat in small bursts -- the post-food cigarette cravings seem to come more powerfully after a big production of a meal. The drinking craving is a little bit tougher to deal with, but if I can keep myself from having a few drinks with another smoker for the next few weeks, that'll help enormously. The driving one is hardly an issue anymore -- because it was one of my strongest triggers, it was actually one of the earliest I dealt with in previous quitting attempts.
But the computering one. That one's going to be tough.
At work, I'm fine. Because there's work to do. There's stuff to keep me busy. There's things to focus on. And besides, I couldn't actually smoke at my computer at work, even if I wanted to.
But at home...
At home, I'm used to sitting at my computer, with a butt smouldering in the ashtray. And don't even get me started on how closely connected smoking and writing at this machine are.
I've known before, and know this time too, that it's dealing with *that* association that's going to be the most difficult.
By tomorrow morning, I'll have gone 24 hours with only a half-cigarette consumed. And the most important thing is this: I'll be sleeping with a patch on. That'll mean two things. First, I won't wake up tomorrow craving a cigarette. I'll wake up feeling fine and dandy, with all my nicotine levels exactly where they should be.
Also, if past performance is any indicator, it means I'll probably have some seriously messed up dreams tonight.
Since the season-ending cliff-hanger was first popularized in the 1980s, thanks to the "Who Shot JR" storyline of "Dallas," its become a cliche. You can't sit down to watch the final episode of a show without wondering what sort of mystery is going to be awaiting you at the end of the hour (or half-hour, as the case may be).
It's like M. Night Shyamalan was made programming director of every network in North America.
And it is because of this cliche of cliffhangers that "The Sopranos" still works for me.
Some argue that the show peaked at the close of the second season, and while the first two seasons were certainly high points, and while I'd agree that it has, occasionally, drifted since then, thanks to a solid creative team, it has yet to jump the shark. And the fact that tonight's episode -- the last until January 2007 -- contained no cliff-hanging moments just proves that.
The thing about cliff-hangers, and why they worked twenty years ago, is that it creates tension. It creates a mystery. It creates suspense. Because you don't know what's going to happen.
Today, with every show under the sun trying to come up with the weirdest show-stopper of a cliff-hanger, the suspense is gone. You can feel it coming from a mile away. You can sit back and relax, knowing that something bizarre and shocking is going to happen, and the answers won't present themselves for another year, and when that happens, you're not surprised, because you saw it coming.
Maybe you didn't see exactly *what* was coming. But you saw that something was.
This season of "The Sopranos" spun that cliche 180 degrees. WHile tonight's episode pushed the tension with certain subplots, and made everyone think that things were going to spill over into some frantic, violent cliff-hanger, nothing happened.
And in doing nothing, they succeeded in doing the one thing that other television shows only dream of doing -- surprising the audience.
To my knowledge (and because I'm far from in the know, this is subject to change) there are only 8 episodes of the Sopranos left before the program leaves the airwaves forever. And for breaking new ground in dozens of ways, not limited to but including season-ending episodes without a cliff-hanger in sight, it will be missed.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Someone in California, apparently. Someone who would have no idea what Stick Figure Drama was. They just went and...bought a bumper sticker. Because...I don't know. I can't even imagine why they would. Because they thought it was funny? I don't know. Maybe.
It's too much for me to get my head around.
Somewhere in California is a car sporting a bumper sticker with a stick-figure depiction of me in a cape with a beer-mug logo on my chest. That's just...I can't even describe how weird that is. Cool, but...weird.
If you want to check out the two products avaialble at the Stick Figure Drama Cafepress site, you can visit my storefront here. If you want to check out the crappy products I came up with for "Some Things You Need To Know Before The World Ends: A Final Evening With The Illuminati" -- a play I directed to years ago -- you can find that storefront here.