Saturday, 31 December 2011

Charlie's Massive 2011 Blow Out Post

I've rather quite abused this blog the past year or so. I always want to commit to working on it, having some kid of through line of consistency, but I wasn't able to keep that due to other commitments. Whatever, life is hard, etc, etc, but wishful thinking and all that.

Back in January of this year I wrote my statement of intent for 2011 (check it out at No Future For You; 2/1/2011) and I look back at it now and I realise I failed in a lot of things. I wanted to do 5 things over 12 months, and I packed all but one of them in pretty early, I think. Those five things, to sum up: 1) Get Zenith out 4 times a year. 2) Self publish first novel, finish second and third. 3) Make Zenith! viable across the board, not just as a hobby. 4) Work harder and 5) Move away from home.

Well I fucked all those up, don't you think? Zenith! is cancelled. Rajiv moved to Dubai, and sure, we've been talking about bringing it back, and we got to talking in December, but it took me two weeks to respond to an email about the name of the magazine, so how on Earth am I going to be able to commit my time to the project? Hopefully, fingers crossed, I can come back to it down the line, but what's the point?

I can't even get my novel out and done, I don't even want to go through self-publishing it (because isn't self-publishing almost like admitting defeat before you've even fought the battle?) so how am I going to co-ordinate a bloody magazine. Shameful, maybe, but I need to have enthusiasm, I need to be able to get something done, and I haven't been able to do any of that. I haven't even finished all the fanfare required around the first (chapter-by-chapter breakdowns, more on that later) let alone got my second and third in a position to start... damned irritating. I've worked hard. I know that. I worked damned hard. Again, more on that later.

And... I still live at home. That's not a bad thing. That's not terrible. I'm saving to move out, but it's slow going. I got a raise (two raises!) this year, so I'm happy, I'm able to save, I'm going to be able to move out soon enough. Just got to keep my head above the water.

So I made some faux-resolutions. Framed them by saying "I won't make resolutions, I'll make plans and just do these!" and then I didn't fulfil them at all. I don't believe in resolutions, like I've said everywhere. They're just promises you make to yourself that you don't feel bad breaking. I want to move out by the end of the year. I probably won't be able to by the end of 2012 but I'm saving toward it.

I'm working on the others that I can. I'm going to keep working hard (no reason not to, and I enjoy my job, so why wouldn't I? I want to go far) and I'm going to keep chipping away at novel things. I kind of need to there. (Again and again, more on it later). So, Charlie, the plan is: Don't make plans. Try your best. If you do that then you're not letting yourself down. Eh. We'll see how it goes.

This year has been hard, but at the same time, it flew by. I started a new job in November of 2010, and I'm still there, still doing well (I hope) and still promising to get better. It feels like home more than the cinema ever did, and not only does it feel like home, it feels like there's a future there. I like that. At the cinema... you just kind of wasted away. Did the same thing again and again. Managers had a go at you for some perceived slight, you took it, you accepted it, and you did the same thing again and again. Horrible existence, and I'm sorry to all my friends still there. But I'm out. I got out and I got others out at the same time, so that's all right, I think.

I wanted to do some kind of grand summing up of the year, but thinking about it, I don't know if I can. I'll just keep talking into the wind and see what happens. The problem, I guess, is that I don't know where the year went. Work was insanely busy for the most part, and this whole "9 to 5"-esque mentality (which was in fact 8 to 6 most nights) took me completely by surprise. It was good though, don't get me wrong, I worked like a dog, and I enjoyed very minute of it, but a year went by like nothing else before it.

And now it's New Year's Eve. A day (event, some might  say?) that I absolutely loathe. NYE is a night that you should have someone there for you. The worst feeling, the most horrible feeling in the world, is to be surrounded by happiness and not having it for yourself. And sure, that sounds selfish, whatever, but when the clock strikes 12 and the crowd has finished shouting down "10, 9, 8..." and everyone embraces and you're just... stood there... God, I've lived through that enough times to know that I don't need to. I'll be at home. Sure, it doesn't help that I've acquired some kind of awkwardly timed end of year cold, but I guess I'm lucky like that. Now I have an excuse: 1) I hate NYE. 2) I can't stop coughing and my voice sounds like my throat has been accosted by a cheese grater.

What did I do with my year? I finished the blasted novel. I got it into a place where I just had to say "no more" and separate myself from it. Then I did the story synopsis and then the chapter-by-chapter breakdowns. Then the shit hit the fan:

1) The editor I met in May at a party who had been quite receptive to my emails and my asking of advice didn't respond to an email. Now, this could be for many reasons. a) She might not have received my last email, and she's at this very minute waiting to hear back from me. b) I wasted her time. We met in May, I got the thing into a shape in, what, August? So I don't blame her. c) She wasn't a real editor. I think it's probably more the middle option than than the former and latter. I took so long to finish the bastard thing that she stopped caring because I kind of stopped caring too.

But I digress.

2) I lost the chapter-by-chapter breakdowns. I spent a fevered night doing them. A blurb of every single event in the novel, broken down by chapters. I did it, was ecstatic. Finally, I thought, real progress. And then when I opened them up a couple of weeks later... I found that I had overwritten them with the bloody time-line I had started writing to keep track of everything. So I lost all that, and I need to do it again. I couldn't leap back into it straight away. It's heart breaking to lose progress, it's absolutely soul destroying, because you've poured yourself into words and typed them out/written them down, and then they're gone? God, I don't know how anyone else can do it. I break.

In the end, it helped, I think. I started adding to the narrative, coaxed about the word count over 100,000 (which amazes me, because I didn't think that was even possible) and then I got it to the place I was happy with. I could keep writing the thing for years but I don't know if that would make it better or if it would just make it bloated, so there came a time I just thought... No. I'm done with it now. All I need to do is commit the time to getting the chapter-by-chapter breakdowns done and then I can work myself up to actually sending it off to publishers. Why not? It's done. I want to make a career out of this. Better to put myself out there then just kind of... waste it.

I need to own this poster.
I was considering doing some kind of "Top Ten" countdown of things from 2011 but I can't really be arsed. That said, if you were to see any film in 2011, it should have starred Ryan Gosling, who was just amazing in anything he decided to be in. Drive was my favourite film of the past 12 months, it had me gob-smacked and speechless by the time the credits were rolling. It was beautifully shot, and the level of sublime photography lulled me into a completely false sense of security for when the explosions of violences took place. Gosling was amazing, Carey Mulligan was as good as she's ever been (Mulligan is consistently one of the best things in the films she's in. I remember her in Doctor Who, way back when, "Blink", and she was brilliant). Everything came together, visuals, soundtrack, score-- the work by Cliff Martinez was inspiring, I thought-- everything, and I have never been happier with such a sad, dark film. You really happy to see it.

I didn't read enough this year. I read comics, sure, but no one counts them, even if they are something amazing. I feel like I should have read novels, epics, something to keep the brain sparking and going, but there was nothing out there that really piqued my interested. That said, I had my annual American Gods reading, which  is always rewarding, and I picked at other things to. I believe that my lack of reading impacted my ability to write this year. I had long periods of being unable to do anything, no inspiration, no ability to write anything. When I read, be it an Encyclopaedia of the Supernatural, be it American Gods or others, I wrote like nothing else. The two go hand in hand. You want to write? Read. Simple. I started plotting a grand old story, something that would work brilliantly as a television show. I was chipping away at that, but really, I think what I was more interested in was the potential of it, the stories that could form around the concept, so I spent more time staring at a blank screen than writing the actual stories, but separate from that, I spent more time writing ideas down to come back to later. It was fun, but not really effective, I think.

 I have tried to get my life in order these past few months. Removed myself out of situations that might be toxic to me. But this hasn't even worked. If anything, it's like I've amputated aspects of my social life, but the problem is... and I've said this before and I've said this elsewhere... I don't meet new people. I don't get to right now, due to the nature of my work and the hours inherent to that, so if I meet someone new I enjoy it very much, but because I don't... well, I don't. Life goes on.

I thought I would have more to say but I guess I don't. 2012 should be good. I hope it is. I don't want to make any promises to myself, but I'll try, none the less, to make it better. I'm writing this-- and have been writing this since the morning-- as more a statement of the year. It went no where, which is unfortunately. I guess as posts go, it could be worse. And as "end of year" posts I've read worse (no I haven't, I haven't read any)...

Screw it. Happy New Year. We'll be back here at the end of 2012, but until then... let's make the most of what we can.

There is one quote that I keep close to my heart and in my head at all times. I'm considering getting it as a tattoo some day, but where? And why? Tattoos, in my mind, should be something eternal and resolute, and I don't know if I could handle having something like this on my skin forever. Not that I don't love it, not that I don't adore it, but... have I ever been one for tattoos? Nah.

"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


TateShots: Maurice Sendak

For posterity, I'm posting this here, too.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Don't Call It Grunge.

I wrote this on the 11th November 2011, but never wrapped it up. So here we go.

You've heard this opinion a hundred times before from smarter folk than me.

There were four bands that came out of Seattle in the late eighties. Nirvana, Soundgarden, The Screaming Trees and my personal favourite, Pearl Jam. I watched Cameron Crowe's beautiful documentary Pearl Jam Twenty earlier, and it got me thinking about the grand scheme of things, and it made me revisit my own history with these bands.

The greatest legacy, of course, is from Nirvana. And I don't quite get it.

Kurt Cobain was the poster-child for the entire "alternative" rock movement that surged into the early nineties. The mass media called it "grunge" but I'm not going to be so naive. I was the fan of Nirvana I was bred to be by popular culture. Nevermind came to me late in the game, but I was an avid listener of their MTV Unplugged because how can you not be, and their black "best of" was never far from my CD player.

The Screaming Trees came to my attention through Mark Lanegan's collaborations with Queens of the Stone Age. I could never get into the Trees own music, but Lanegan's dark, dulcid tones had me enamoured. There was a vulnerability to Lanegan's voice, something that drew me in even as it haunted me relentlessly. You have to respect that.Queens led me to The Mark Lanegan Band but never much further. I had to be in the right mood for his sound, and it was never a particularly good mood.

Soundgarden were radio darlings for a time, Black Hole Sun a video that crept up on me when I wasn't expecting it to, and it scared my fragile child self into submission. I never had much time for them until recently, with songs like Fell On Black Days and the aforementioned Black Hole Sun ringing true with me.

But the best of all these, the band that have never ever let me down, were Pearl Jam. There was something about Eddie Vedder's daddy issues that made his music so brittle but at the same time so resilient. "I-lived-through-this-suffering-and-now-look-where-I-am". I love the sound, I love Eddie's voice, and I can't get enough of it. To be honest, I prefer their earlier stuff, but who doesn't when it comes to bands? Earlier almost always means better, and it kind of reinforces my point about these four bands coming out of the same place at the same time and sharing a common ground but going to a different place each and every time.

I was trying to think about Kurt Cobain earlier, and it struck me that the best thing, in my eyes, that he had ever done, was MTV Unplugged. Everything else before that was perfunctory, unnecessary. The definitive versions of some of Nirvana's best loved tracks were performed there and then. I can't remember Cobain's voice like I can Lanegan's or Vedder's. Do I want to? No. I think Nirvana were overrated, but they helped bridge a gap between the alternative and the mainstream, and it's helped so many bands since. You can't knock that.

Cornell recorded a James Bond* theme, for crying out loud, so he's done well out of the whole thing.

*You Know My Name from Casino Royale (2006), COME ON GUYS.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Lady Gaga's Marry The Night

Watching the opening to Lady Gaga’s video for Marry The Night reminded me of the worst faux artistic tendencies that I’ve seen way too many times before. Seen it from ex-girlfriends trying to be edgy and ironically pretentious, mostly. Overblown statements pretending to mean exactly what they’re saying when what they’re saying is vague and shit. And I say ex-girlfriends like it’s a plural but it’s one and it’s embarrassing and it’s juvenile and I don’t know I was really expecting. It was all well and good when I was 18 and all I cared about was people knowing that I was listening, trying to care, trying to be invested in what people say, but nowadays if all that’s said is this kind of… bourgeois pretension… then what’s the bloody point?

Beyond that, I do quite like this song. Muh muh muh muh OH GOD ALL OF GAGA’S SONGS ARE THE SAME OH RAH GA

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Dream #1

I'm vaguely aware of Alphas and I think I just had a dream regarding the show. Nothing too concrete, just concepts and ideas that stemmed from catching a few too many promos for it and not taking the time to actually get into it.

I think they're doing it wrong, of course.

In my dream, the framing sequence is the introduction of the "mutated" folk through an interview with the POV character-- a police detective?-- and the history of the program being given like that. Characters include a telepath/an invulnerable geek kind of fellow/super speed loser. Their training would be shown, including a scene with dozens of zombies linked together and they have to get to the other side... the geek catapults himslef to the other side... then there's a room of zombies (I don't know how zombies came into it) they have to get from one side to the other of, and the person who is directing the team, who has watched them suffer, who has been in their heads, she decides to help, goes around distracting zombies and twatting them in the head... and then the POV character would say that's all well and good but why has HE been called here.

Some mutated folk were trained differently. They were let out into the world, adopted, and the world shaped them. The detective (hyper-intuitive), the olympic swimmer (hyper-metabolism), the fireman (fearless), etc. The core group of characters, really.

The detective is one of them. He's shocked, but things make sense to him (thanks to his deductive reasoning powers). What he  also wants to know is why the scientist in charge of the program is so battered and bruised...

Six mutated subjects escaped recently. Horrific mutations with names taken from nursery rhymes... The Spider ("...Itsy Bitsy..."), The Wolf, The Headsman, Hansel & Gretel... and they're going to kill everyone because they hate humanity for experimenting on them. The Spider is the ring leader of this group. He induced a change in the subjects, made them shed their skin and break free from their bonds-- nano bonds?-- and unleash hell. They destroyed the labs, killed dozens of the more passive subjects and the scientists, and then left. All apart from The Spider. The lead scientist arrived in the lab and found it in chaos. The Spider was waiting. The scientist picked up a discarded weapon, hides in a toilet cubicle, while The Spider monologues. The bullets ricochet off of The Spider, who mocks the scientist as he tears the door off the toilet. He then proceeds to take a DNA sample of the scientist and then one of himself. He swaps them and injects a into b and b into a.

The subjects are all the scientist's children-- he experimented on himself decades ago and his power was his super-power giving biological make-up. The Spider contaminates his body with his own DNA, twisting any potential super-children into copies of himself-- genetic clones?-- so no more can be made. And with the scientist's DNA in him... The Spider might be able to breed super-powered creatures (imagine a story where a pregnant woman is found in a hotel, her bloated, stretched belly bursting with dozens of mutated foetuses...).

So. The detective needs to bring these monsters in. He needs to take The Spider alive so they can undo the genetic damage done to the scientist so the program can continue. He intuits that the DNA might be changing the scientist but chooses to trust him, and then he assembles his team!

So that would be the story. Dollhouse-meets-Alphas?

I could write that.