Monday, 28 June 2010

Words To Live By...

"Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end."

--From "American Gods", by Neil Gaiman

I live by this concept.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Provenance Pt. 1

The Red Door was a thing that should never have been opened.

It was a built to specification by the master carpenter Klaus Mueller, after twelve bottles of dark rum shared with the stranger that visited him every Sabbath. He did not know the name of the man, just that the stranger bought word of the outside world to the small town that Mueller had lived in all his life, and that was enough for Klaus.

"Klaus, you are the greatest carpenter in all of the world, but you have never truly crafted something that changed anything, have you?" said the stranger, his thin black lips slowly moving across his harrowed, pale face. "Masters must be exhibited, masters must share their work, but you sir are content to build whatever is required, not what is... 'needed'. Needed to be shared, needed to be seen."

Klaus smiled at the compliment-- this man was of the world, was he not? Though with words so golden and a tongue so silver, surely they were lies, but the conviction...

The majority of the stranger's features were obscured by the burgundy cloak he wore, draped over his shoulders and drifting behind him as he moved amongst the chairs and tables of Klaus Mueller's workshop. He arrived before dark and left in the night between the clink of glasses, leaving Mueller with nothing but a scant knowledge of the outside world and a hangover that would kill a lesser man.

The two men were sat around an oak table that Mueller had been working on for the past week, their glasses caked to the surface because of the alcohol spilt during their toasts. It was a long silence between the two before Klaus replied, a hanging moment of thought put into the mysterious man's words.

"What do you suggest then, friend?" said Klaus. "I could, perhaps, build a monument to my supposed genius, to draw the crowds to this little hamlet of a town I call home."

"Or..." said the stranger, considering the words as they left his mouth, "I could make use of your talent for a project I've had in mind for some time now..."

"Is this what this has always been about?" said Klaus, "your visits here to my workshop, leading to this moment?"

The stranger shrugged nonchalantly, and his smile twisted for a moment. "Perhaps, but I know talent when I skill it, and I have need of your ability."

"What is it then?" said Klaus, "what would you have me do?"

"A door. Built to my exactest specification."

"A door?" repeated Klaus, incredulously. "Is that all?"

"Not even that... the door itself... the door shall present itself soon enough. But the frame, the framing for the door, and the hinges on which it will turn... that would be your challenge."


The stranger grinned. "Did you think it would be easy?"


I don't know why it is, but I feel like I've got to do something online. Have a connection, a direct line to whatever it is this collective information hub is nowadays. I deleted my Facebook, deactivated it, whatever, but am leaning even more on my Twitter. Why is that? Sure I go off and on Twitter, I don't need it, but why am I on it even more? It's strange is what, but what if I went cold turkey? Being on a Social Networking site gives me something to do is all. But what if being online is stopping me from being offline and outdoors, you know?

For the majority of my US trip, if I do get online (I'll try and figure out other things to do, and hopefully, I'll succeed), I'll come on here. Might abandon my Twitter for the month and see how it goes.

You never know, eh?

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Grant Morrison on "Marvel Boy"

"Not only am I working with one of the best comics artists ever, the colouring gauntlet has been thrown down once again with the most incredible video game lighting and atmospherics. The whole thing really becomes something new with issue 3, however, which I'm unusually proud of. Apart from the fact that the potentially impenetrable central idea (HEXUS, THE LIVING CORPORATION) wound up beautifully simple, original and ridiculous all at once, that was the issue I really began to utilise J.G. Jones' preposterous genius to its best effects and decided to rethink the prevailing vogue for cinematic/money shot panel structures and page layouts. Marvel Boy's visual style becomes more like MTV and adverts; from #3 on it's filled with all kinds of new techniques; rapid cuts, strobed lenticular panels, distressed layouts, 64 panel grids, whatever. We've only started to experiment but already MARVEL BOY looks like nothing else around. Some of the stuff J. G. is doing is like an update of the whole Steranko Pop Art approach to the comics page. Instead of Orson Welles, op art and spy movies, J.G.'s using digital editing effects, percussive rhythms, cutting the action closer and harder, illuminated by the frantic glow of the image-crazed hallucination of 21st century media culture and all that. Comics don't need to be like films. They don't need to look like storyboards. This is not to dis the many great comics which have used filmic narrative techniques but I wanted to go back and explore some of the possibilities of comics as music."

-Grant Morrison on "Marvel Boy"

All Time Top Five Films (...right now)

Right, so the following is culled and expanded from a few postings I made on my Twitter feed last night in a mad attempt to get some thoughts out before I slept. Writing the majority of it over, like, seven 140 character posts was daunting as all fuck on my qwerty pad on my new phone, but hey, it had to be done, and now I'm going to try and slowly move away from using my Twitter as much, because you know what? Well, actually, Dave doesn't approve, and the guy terrifies me.

So I've settled on my current (current because this kind of thing is always shifting, I'll always find a film that usurps a previous high scorer, that's the nature of these lists) All Time Top Five Favourite Films, and they kind of breakdown like this. I'm well aware that one is a double-header, because I wrote it, but I don't care... these are the kind of things that are allowed when it comes to a personal list. And what are you going to do? Take me to the List Commission?

I thought not.

So, it breaks down like this: High Fidelity, Star Trek (2009), Ghostbusters (1), The Royal Tenenbaums/The Darjeeling Limited (newcomer, joint) and Chasing Amy
. Some obvious choices there, obviously if you knew me, but some surprises, I'm sure.

High Fidelity has always, and will always appeal to me on so many levels and the whole narrative just sings (that was an awkward pun, right?), so that's always gonna be No. 1 (with a bullet), and I will ignore any disparaging remarks hurtled in its direction.
This is the one book adaptation that takes massive liberties but is still true to the pure spirit of the novel-- that liberty being transplanting the story from London to Chicago-- the only one for me, that is.

I wasn't sure about it before but the sheer blatant enthusiasm that the crew had for Star Trek makes it a gem of a thing, something that is both sentimental and nostalgic whilst striving forward into the future ready for anything. They're no longer beholden to any kind of established continuity like the previous films, something that I think scuttled the success of The Next Generation film series. These characters a
nd concepts are firmly entrenched into my childhood so something that is so "modern" and so "new" and still has that gut punch effect that stinks of pure nostalgia trip? An obvious Top Five entry.

The first Ghostbusters was nigh perfection and the main cast play off each other wonderfully, effortlessly even, I adore it on so many levels. The dialogue, every single line pretty much, is quotable, and Bill Murray just... well, this film made me want to see more of him, and I know that's such a naive and n00bish thing to say, but I don't care. I love the actor, I think he can do anything, and it was this that made me strive to see Lost In Translation (a near miss for the Top Five). This is the root of every single great comedy film of the 90s and beyond, I'm serious, and without it we wouldn't have had some great films. Four [sort of] average guys fighting the forces of evil. What's not to like?

The Wes Anderson double-header is a new development but a welcome one; there's just something about his films that once again connects with me. I didn't really think about it before, but The Royal Tenenbaums is greatness, a perfectly structured story, and sure it can come off as elitist and snobby with how it's shot, and how the characters are written, but I don't care. Wes Anderson's direction in that film was nouveauSOMETHING and I don't know what, he's an auteur for sure, but the fact is... The Darjeeling Limited didn't feel completely like one of his films-- and I'm not saying that's a bad thing... Anderson seems to temper his own eccentricities into a mighty thing, and it flows like nothing else.

And as much as I love Dogma, Chasing Amy is a perfectly small and taut love story that stayed with me from first viewing a
nd that's all that this kind of thing is about, full stop. I'm not even distracted by Ben Affleck, who I find to be a complete and utter moron of an actor in a majority of the stuff I've seen him in. He ascended from Indie Royalty into Hollywood Heartthrob then he vanished, and sure, I've heard his recent films have been great, but this is what *made* him great. The dialogue isn't too heavy, and what other film could have granted us the line "What's a nubian?" Oh my. Oh me.

So yeah, I puffed that up a bit, but that's where I stand right now.

What's your All Time Top Five (for right now)?

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Quotes of Importance

I collect quotes. This is for many a reason, mostly so I can smile and remember how much they mean to me, or others because they inspire me. They create a chain reaction inside my being that drives me forward... so yeah, they're important to me.

I kept them on my Facebook but realised I need to have them near me, so they're going in my notebook, but they're also going here, so you can have them with you too.

"Don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to knowledge. "Yes" is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes."

-- Stephen Colbert

"This is not over. Nor is it close. Until the moment it is over, it can never be close. Because if we see the finish line we will flag and they are absolutely counting on us to do that. In the room, reason. On the streets, on the net, I say reason is for the 'moderates'. Remember what they've done. Remember what they're trying to take from us. FIGHT. FIGHT. FIGHT."

--Joss Whedon

"I’m a big fan of pretension. It means 'an aspiration or intention that may or may not reach fulfillment.' It doesn’t mean failing upward. It means trying to exceed your grasp. Which is how things grow."

-- Warren Ellis

"I always had one foot out the door, and that prevented me from doing a lot of things, like thinking about my future and... I guess it made more sense to commit to nothing, keep my options open. And that's suicide. By tiny, tiny increments."

-- Rob Gordon, High Fidelity

"We live in a world in which the only utopian visions arrive in commercial breaks: magical visions of an impossibly hospitable world, peopled by bright-eyed attractive men, women, children... Where nobody dies... In my worlds people died. And I thought that was honest. I thought I was being honest."

-- The Film Maker, Signal To Noise

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: 'It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.'"

-- Jim Jarmusch

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

It's All In The Preparation...

Like Batman, I'm always going to try and be prepared for whatever the eventuality. So I'm filling my notebook with every note I could possibly need, and so that means I'm filling it with story notes, ideas, quotes, whatever. A lot of that stuff is handwritten because sometimes I can be a bloody machine and I don't have access to a printer that works all the time, but a lot of it is culled from science websites, occult sources, all that. I love it. I love my notebook. I love how it looks. And I love what it holds. So yeah. Good stuff. I'll take a few more photos in a bit to show how it's coming together.

God's greatest creation was a stapler, I'll say that.

Monday, 7 June 2010

"Hell, or Hidden?"

I'm writing a lot of ideas down recently, filling up a book with them, just so I can have something to look to when I have a moment. There's the obvious stuff, the stuff I always turn to when I'm thinking... the Tunguska Impact, for one, that whole incident fascinates me so it's an idea that I mine when it's appropriate... science, as a whole, is a well that I go to every now and then-- mad science, real science, speculative science, anything like that. Of course, due to my bastard novel, I'm now fascinated with looking at anything in regards to angels and demons and monsters-- but that could also be because I'm a big Supernatural fan. So yeah, I'm working on lots of stuff right now, have lots of ideas fermenting, and below are two projects that I'm bobbing in and out of.

The most important to me, right now, I think, is my screenplay. I've written it before for coursework but then I, uh, well I lost it. I lost the piece and it's probably somewhere in my room or on a computer or a memory stick, but as I can't find it I'm rewriting and expanding on it from memory. It's a bugger, because I was really happy with it (but not happy enough with it, I guess, to save it anywhere memorable, buh) but this is giving me a chance to just do it straight off again, without having to keep looking back at what happened before. If it was memorable and striking it stays, but obviously, if I can't remember it in the first place it can't be very good. So that's how I roll today with this.

The second most important (after getting my novel rewritten after the edits come in) is this stupid little science fiction story I have in my head involving the edge of the universe and the end of all time but it's stupid and hard to write because there has to be internal logic to it and the first big stepping stone is the fact that there has to be space ship that can run for billions upon billions upon trillions of years without hitting planets or just falling apart but that just doesn't make sense so I'm stuck thinking. Phew. There's also the engine idea I had, which is intrinsic to the second (there's more than one, ugh) "twist" to the story, but like I said, it needs to be worked on.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Supernatural S1E2 - "Wendigo"

"Wendigo" was quite a good episode, more of a re-pilot just in case you missed the first episode-- you can tell, either way. The exposition is all there again, and the threat clearly outlined after a certain point. And it's scary. It is. You get the creep factor even as you don't see the monster-- and as I pointed out last time around, the fact that you don't see the Wendigo itself (hell, you don't even see it until the last fifteen minutes).

In fact the episode sets itself up early on with the dream sequence that has a major shock that you don't see coming, because it just makes sense that Sam would be there in the cemetery. That shock came from nowhere and I loved it, because it's just... it sets up shop, I think. Supernatural is, as Eric Kripke intended, a horror film week to week, and the structure, the context I guess, is the underlying Winchester subplot. These guys tell great stories, and the characters are really well defined, that you don't care.

So the story mirrors the Winchester's situation perfectly-- a sibling is missing, and needs to be found. Dean seems to notice this, and needs to solve it, but Sam doesn't care. Sam, to be fair, is a complete bastard in this episode, not wanting to babysit, but it's understandable because he's just lost Jess and now their father is leading them on a wild goose chase. That would make me angry, I'm sure.

I like how in the earlier seasons the show really knew its demographic. The young folk always, eventually, believe Sam and Dean, but the old guard, the older generation, they always view them with disdain, and of course, again, rightly so. These guys are running around with fake IDs and causing trouble, people seem to be dying as soon as they arrive. I like that. Sure, as the series as a whole progresses that eschews, but right now it's fitting, and you can't help but enjoy it. It gets more obvious next episode, with "Dead In The Water" and the Sheriff a) being the cause of the ghostly lake and b) trying to protect his family and c) trying to get the Winchesters to leave.

Again, characters are well-defined by their actions-- Sam is angsty still, he takes... well, he's never unangsty, and Dean is a cocky sonofabitch, the fact that he's wearing biker boots to hike into Blackwater Ridge, he's eating M&Ms as supplies, his bravado in the face of the guide, Roy. In the earlier episodes, in fact, it feels like Sam is shortchanged in the character building department, because he's so well defined by his loss of Jessica and his need to find John. That's it. Dean, meanwhile, is fun, he's bouncy, and he's not buried under the broodingness that later becomes him. He's the comic relief to an extent, and with the overarching plot being so damn depressing, it's required.

I don't think it's the best episode, not as good as the first, and not as good as, say, "Scarecrow" or "Provenance", two episode I do quite like, but it does continue to establish the mythology. Watching from the beginning gives you a better sense of things, where the show is coming from, but that's something I'll discuss when I hit "Phantom Traveler".


Saturday, 5 June 2010

Supernatural Reviews

I'm needing to keep myself focused with my writing, so I'm giving myself set aims for the time being just so I keep doing stuff. I'm working on a short film screenplay that I hope to somehow develop, and a few other projects with Mort, so that should be cool, but I'm also slowly going to make my way through Seasons One to Four of Supernatural, and hopefully, when I hit Four the Five boxset will be out. That should be fun. I'm going to write a review for each episode after I watch it, and rate it accordingly on a scale of 1 to 10. How's that for simplicity. Expect the first review ("Pilot", duh) soon. Thanks!

Supernatural S1E1 - "Pilot"

I remembered this episode fondly-- and quite clearly too, as I've watched it a good dozen times-- and even after five, six years, it doesn't fail to impress. The characters appear fully formed on the screen, be it Sam-- quiet, restrained, socially awkward but warm none the less-- or Dean-- a dirty flirt whose loyalty to their father, John (merely glimpsed at through flashback this episode), will eventually be his undoing down the line. The whole mission statement for the episode is clear here, and the baggage that would come with later seasons is nowhere to be seen. Thank God for that.

I love this show more than words can do justice, but season after season, especially after (SPOILER!) the death of Azazel (Yellow Eyes), the weight of the show seemed to drag itself down, and the sharper, more defined characteristics (Sam's anger and Dean's self-sacrificing) became exaggerated. Season five went a ways near the end to resolve these tics, but still... the earliest seasons are completely the best (bar the eventual introduction of Castiel. Woof).

As the episode progresses the main characters of Sam and Dean are presented to the viewer, and it's so natural that if you weren't really anal and looking for it, you could miss how subtle a lot of the stuff is. Sam is the researcher, he knows what he's doing when he has to and he's better at it than Dean. Dean is a cocky little bastard who hates authority-- more than likely due to being under the thumb of his father for so long, and instead of thrashing out against him like Sammy did, he's the dutiful son, looking for other ways to rebel.

Anyway, the whole mission statement for the show was established here, and Eric Kripke, the creator, did the job well. Two brothers who had drifted apart due to their differences in views and the pressures of their patriarch are reunited to find their now lost father, and face supernatural evil along the way. How amazing a concept is that? The banter between the two is brilliantly sharp, the music-- and the car, both of them a combined member of the cast, I have to say-- and the threats they face (in this episode, a Woman In White) are suitably creepy. The effects too tend to veer away from being out and out crap, the CGI kept in the shadows for the most part, the score and camera direction and the writing able to wring the threats out for the viewer. The fact that for half the episode we either don't know or don't see what the brothers Winchester are fighting creates an internal tension as the viewer expects the worst-- and as I've always said, the imagination of the viewer is always scarier than whatever the production team puts on screen.

The rules are set out for the brothers: Salt and burn the bones. Remember the earlier episodes when it was all ghosts really, and it was always them running around with salt and lighter fluid? Remember how fun and easy that was? Sure, they had to find the bones (I remember "Asylum", where they were... in a cupboard? Something like that? Or in "Roadkill", under a tree?) but the race against time aspect seemed to up the ante no matter what.

"No chick flick moments." I loved that line when I first heard it uttered by Dean, but as I said earlier, as the seasons progressed the Winchesters were running around teary-eyed and brooding, and it kind of did away with the stiff-upper lip that kept the otherwise dark series walking tall. I liked that. Sure, I love drama and tension, but every third episode the Winchesters were exchanging tissues because their internal anguish got the better of them. Sad times.

I like rules, like I was saying. The boys did their research, they completed the job, and that end reveal with Jess on the ceiling, just like the horribly terrifying opening with their mother? Wow. When I first saw that I remember jumping out of my skin, and sure, the effect has been lost somewhat by frequent viewings but the punch is there, and you can feel it as Dean has to drag his brother, once again, from out of the flames. I love how that's a repeated thing, how Dean will always be the one to try and keep his family safe. And like I said, it's all laid out from the first episode, a perfect how-to on the series for others to follow.

Not the best episode, it takes about... what? Half the season to hit it's stride? I adore "Scarecrow" and most the episodes after, but this is masterful writing, and great direction by David Nutter, with a great turn from future Life star Sarah Shahi as the "villain" of the piece. The story is tight, the implication for future episodes bold and clear, and I can't wait to move forward.