Search

Lara Eckener

Diorama of a woman exploding

Friday Four #2 – …ladies

Last week I slipped back onto this blog with a post about learning to appreciate women. A part of that journey has been about opening myself up to the things women create and building a need for female voices in my life. In that vein, for today’s Friday Four I bring you:

Four Five Women You Should Be Listening To (and Possibly Aren’t)

01. Jenny Owen Youngs

Youngs is exactly the kind of thing I would have refused to listen to before. A young woman with a guitar who writes songs about her feelings and her relationships. It’s so easy for that to stray into the dewey sentimentalism that still makes me pretty uncomfortable even as it’s making me weep into my chai. But just as we’re supposed to imagine people complexly, we should imagine musicians more complexly still. She has a real gift for hooks. Her song ‘Pirates’ has what is possibly one of my favorite hooks ever as she plaintively tells the audience that loves no good, but it sure beats the hurt, beats the hurt, beats the hur-ur-ur-ur-urt. Her music is incredibly catchy, even the slow stuff, and when she does give us stories they come with fearlessness, like this Bonnie & Clyde tale from her last album. She writes the kind of songs that keep you company all day, which is good for me, because I hate feeling entirely alone.

02. Carolina Chocolate Drops

This band has two ladies with a strong grasp of what it means to embody a song. The one in the video above, Rhiannon Giddens, has been with the band since its inception. She plays five string banjo, fiddle, and kazoo. There’s no singing in the video I’ve posted here, but I had to choose this one because of how the percussion in it makes me happy. If you happen to hear her sing, you’ll know immediately that her voice is strong and clear, as evidenced here in the video where she’s singing ‘I Know I’ve Been Changed’ with her sister. The second lady, Leyla McCalla, joined the band on tour in 2012 as a cellist. I could listen to her talk about music all day. She seems to have need for music and a great understanding of poetry which I admire.

03. The Puppini Sisters

While I feel that the Carolina Chocolate Drops take a classical southern sound and ground it in the now, The Puppini Sisters sit firmly in an imagined past grounded in the tightly sung girl groups from the 40s and 50s. (I imagine Noh-Varr would approve.) They do a lot of period appropriate covers as well as their own songs and they wear a lot of costumes and I pretty much adore all of it. Don’t even get me started on the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. While it’s an old style, it’s not dusty. Their voices sound great together and they bring a modern flair to their old time sound. Mainly they’re fun to have around if you need a pick me up or are having a party.

04. Valerie Meiss

Valerie Meiss has been a part of several projects I really enjoy. I first learned of her when I stumbled onto a Hellblinki Concourse set at Dragon*Con in 2008. Hellblinki is the least accessible band on this list. I’ve been told over and over by friends that they just can’t get into the sound, because of how strange it is and the different ways they mix sounds and instruments and even audio clips on their albums. These are pretty much all of the things I love about Hellblinki, so I can’t exactly sympathize. But what I do say is ‘how about Valerie’s voice though? It’s great right!?’ Because it is. It’s why I chose the above video instead of any of the more polished or professional things I could have posted. Just listen to her. And it doesn’t stop there. She can sound like an old time skat performer, a baroness of the plains, like a zombie, like a Disney princess, those last two in the same song! Valerie has since moved on to a new project called Miss Mousie and the Rigamarole which is well worth looking into if you like her voice above. Just for fun, here’s a link to an accordion, fiddle, and upright bass version of Salt n’Pepa’s ‘Push It’.

I hope you find a new voice here. Fall in love a little, it’s the best feeling in the world.

Next week’s Friday Four will be about Birds. You can suggest Friday Four topics in the comments below or over twitter. Have a good weekend!

Advertisements

Friday Four #1

Someone remind me that I wanted to make a post about Rise of the Guardians and childhood dreams. I really meant to, but time slipped away from me, as it often does. In fact, some of you might notice that this went up after midnight eastern standard time, which actually makes it a Saturday Four. Anyone who speaks up about this will be kept after class and made to write “I will not question people in their own blogs” a hundred times. And I want that handwriting neat!

I was in a bit of a conundrum over what to make the first Friday Four about. I have spent the last two days trying to pull together stuff to talk about for our 2012 reviews at the Wrong Opinions Podcast. (Well, when I wasn’t trying to figure out how to warp one of the Big Damn Existential Scifi Novel characters into something I could write for a call). I’ve also spent a lot of that time feeling sad that I couldn’t talk about We Need to Talk About Kevin on the podcast this evening because it came out last year. Then, finally as so rarely happens, the two separate sides of my brain connected somehow and I realized I should make the first Friday Four about movies I watched last year and couldn’t talk about on the review podcast. So here, in no particular order, are four movies you should definitely watch if you missed them the first time around.

1. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Before I begin this, I need to warn you that this movie will never let you go. It’s brutal and effective in its attempts to force the main character’s unease on to you. I watched it many months ago and yet I was just last month in the middle of a long car trip when all of a sudden out of nowhere I was struck by the immense sadness of the ending of the movie and couldn’t breathe for a moment.

Image

(TRAILER)

The story is that of a mother’s (Tilda Swinton) frustrations over her inability to understand and form a relationship with her son (played at different ages by Jasper Newell and Ezra Miller) and her husband’s (John C. Reilly) inability to listen to what she’s really saying when she talks about her fears. The whole thing culminates in a school shooting, but it’s not really the end that sticks with me as much as all of the build up. Ezra Miller and Tilda Swinton turn in outstanding performances. Miller’s performance in particular haunted me for days after I watched it. (And then gave me some wicked whiplash when later that weekend I went and saw him The Perks of Being a Wallflower. He’s one to watch.)The friend who recced the movie to me told me she wished she could forget having watched it, it’s so disturbing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s a horror film, but a lot of the elements of suspense are there. It grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go.

If you like deft character development, scripts that don’t mince words, and aren’t afraid to get your hands (or your imagination) dirty, then this movie is for you.

2. The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

This is one we did discuss on the podcast, as part of our Hitchcock Extravaganza at the beginning of last year, but I will never be tired of trying to force people to watch it.

Image

The Lodger is a silent film about a murderer who is loosely like Jack the Ripper in the way he carries out his crimes and who he targets. It mainly concerns a man who takes a set of rooms during this turbulent time (Ivor Novello) and the daughter of his landlords (June Tripp) whom he falls in love with. This movie had my undivided attention about five minutes in when it gave me some awesome shots of the room sized newspaper printing presses of the time…and then Ivor Novello happened. I think maybe you need to have been raised on Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff like I was to understand how such an expressive face and entreating eyes can capture my heart so, but I fell fast and hard for our hero.

…or is he? He’s mistaken for the killer and then cleared after a harrowing mob scene, but you can’t be sure. The movie itself has the normal narrative snags that we often find when we watch movies structured for audiences of a different time, but you can see Hitchcock’s developing style in it. Especially in the very last scene where all of the intent of clearing the lodger’s name that was in the script–Novello was a popular actor and they couldn’t sully his name by having him play a murderer–is undermined entirely by Hitchcock lingering on a particular lit up sign.

If you like the brand of suspense found in silent films or learning about where famous directors got their starts, then this movie is for you.

3. Circumstance (2011)

I wanted so badly to see this film that I almost broke my keyboard ordering it on Netflix when it finally showed up there. I knew absolutely nothing about it except what I’d seen in the trailer at the beginning of 2011, but that was enough.

Image

(TRAILER)

This movie was so much more than I expected it to be. I thought it might be your average coming of age lesbian tale with enough cultural differences to keep me intrigued. I did not expect to see the harsh realities of living as a young person of suspect in Tehran, how the things that a person does can get back to their families in a hundred painful ways, or the strength of rebellious spirit in a growing class of young people who refuse to live in the world their parents have left for them. I cannot deny that I take a lot of things for granted about my life, and watching things like this kicks me outside of my head, which is a good thing. The girls (Nikohl Boosheri and Sarah Kazemy) in the movie give engaging performances, and their group of friends made me smile as often as they made me think. There’s also an incredibly creepy plot with one of the girls’ older brother (Reza Sixo Safai) and his obsession with her girlfriend that was way left field from what I was expecting, So good job, movie.

If you are interested in LGBT youth or stories about coming of age in Iran, then this is the movie for you.

4. La planete sauvage (1973)

Billed as Fantastic Planet in the US, La planete sauvage is a feature length animated film written by René Laloux and Roland Topor, and animated at Jiří Trnka Studio. It reminds me a great deal of many things, but I feel like all of those comparisons would be unfair because of the cultural differences between where I’m coming from and where this coming from. Though, that isn’t to say that those things I’m thinking of weren’t influenced by this or other works by the studio.

Image

(TRAILER)

The main action of the story concerns itself with a human boy named Terr who is being kept as a pet by one of a race of gargantuan blue aliens called Draags. The aliens believe humans too stupid to learn, so Terr passes his many bored hours by listening to his owner’s school lessons. When he finally manages to escape and find more people like himself his knowledge of the alien race helps the other humans (referred to as Oms, a term too close to the French word homme for me to ignore) fight back in a way they hadn’t been able to before.

The ‘camera’ here lingers long and heavy on the surreal landscape of the Draag planet and its many strange and wondrous creatures who seem to enjoy capturing and taunting or torturing smaller animals for fun. It’s this behavior that probably informs the Draags opinions of the Oms as unfeeling beasts, but in the end a shared reason saves the day.

If you like speculative science fiction, existentialism, surrealist art, or listening to people speak French (look, I’m easy for French), then this movie is for you.

And that’s enough of that for one night, as it’s now way past my bedtime. Is there a movie you’ve been dying to tell someone about or that you think I should see? Share in the comments! And have a good weekend.

.028 – The Year of Finishing

2012 was the Year of Doing Frightening Things, and I did. Some of them were more frightening than others, and some of them were entirely unintentional, but over all I think I challenged the way that I think about a lot of things in my life and that’s good. I even got a poem published and made some friends on the way. I can consider that mission accomplished. However, I cannot consider myself done with missions entirely. My princess is in another castle, you see. Time to shimmy down an improbably sized drain pipe and move forward. 2013 will be the Year of Finishing Things.

I am total shit at resolutions. I never keep them and I never complete them, so instead of setting myself up for finishing failure, I’m going to make goals instead. I’ve outlined them below. If you catch me slacking in the next year, please beat me about the head and shoulders with the closest non-lethal instrument and get me back on track.

Health-

  • Drink more water: This one is pretty self-explanatory. But seriously, I drink too much soda. It’s probably gross to anyone else who stops to think about it.
  • Walk to Rivendell: God but I love nerds. Some enterprising Lord of the Rings fans got together and worked out the distances between key locations in Middle Earth. It is 458 miles from Hobbiton to Rivendell. Armed with that knowledge, I am pledging right now to make it to Rivendell by the end of the year. I want to walk/jog at least a mile a day, not including time spent doing walking heavy activities like being at theme parks or in big cities. A mile extra. My writing partner, Alli, has put together a spreadsheet for us to keep track of our distances. For added fun, if you use this website and enter your total mileage, it will tell what you are seeing as you go.
  • Prep to run a 5k: Ideally, eventually, I’d like to be able to run a half marathon, but let’s not put the cart before the horse here. I would like to enter and run at least one 5k before the end of the year. Preferably in less than half an hour. Not that I have any idea how long you’re supposed to take to run a 5k, but half an hour sounds good.

Writing (fiction)-

  • (IE, I’m wasteful with my words, and in turn, my words are wasteful with me.)
  • Burst: I think I’ve finally settled on a time period and overall scenario for this novel I’ve been kicking around in the back of my head for the better part of the year. 1915, travelling sideshow, two young-ish girls just trying to figure out what they need and how they can leave. See also: makeouts, flocks of birds, rain of diamonds, and an old magician who doesn’t do magic. It should be fun to work on at the very least.
  • Volunteer Vampires: Guys, I know. I know that I’ve been saying I was going to finish this all year. It’s just a lousy short story. Why do I make everything so hard? I don’t know. Hence forcing myself to finish things.
  • The Steampunk: Alli and I got sidetracked on this because of life. Life is pretty lame. But hopefully in the next year we’ll be able to make some actual headway on it. It’s always nice to return to that universe, so I’m really looking forward to it.
  • Superheroetry: Sometimes I just have really dumb ideas that I can’t let go of! I like to think that’s part of my charm. In this case I think I’ll write a collection of poems about superheroes. Probably made up ones, since I can’t afford to be sued for copyright infringement.
  • Poetry (legit): I’d also like to polish up some of the poems I already have and work on new ones to submit to different places. You will not be able to escape me! Moo ha ha!
  • Submit to places: A short list of publications I’d like to submit work to over the next few months is: Yeah Write, Snake Oil Cure, Plunge, Spark Anthology, other things I discover as I bumble about the internet.

Writing (non-fiction)-

  • (IE, I’d also like to make sure I’m writing regardless of inspiration or cause, so there are several things I’m planning on keeping up this year outside of any attempt to really publish. Just so I don’t lose sight of what I want to be.)
  • This blog: Surprise! None of you are surprised. I need to be around here more often. I really struggled last year, trying to find a tone and a purpose for this thing. I don’t want it to be a writing blog, because I feel I have no authority there yet. But I DO want it to be a blog that writers want to read and than help me interact with other people who have similar interests. Because of this I think this year I will try to run it as the blog of someone who happens to be a writer, but who also does a whole bunch of other things that she likes to natter on about on the internet. That’s probably the most authentic tone I can strike right now. You know, since I DO do a whole bunch of things and I REALLY love to natter about them on the internet.
  • Friday Fours: I know the Friday Five is popular about the internet. I don’t want my Friday activities to be confused with being a part of any official Friday Five, mostly because I don’t want to disappoint anyone looking for such a thing. So I will do Friday Fours, based on, well, whatever I want to base it on. I’ll probably be taking prompts for those elsewhere. Hopefully they’ll ensure that I’m here at least once a week.
  • Research: Gosh, do I love researching things. Just the other week when I was doing some planning on the new Burst outline I learned that Inspiration (1915) was the first movie to include a nude scene from a leading female that was not pornographic. That’s the kind of information I feel like everyone should know! I’ll be posting things like that more often when they strike my fancy.
  • Wasting My Thirties: I only really mentioned it here once, thoguh I have linked to it from my twitter account several times times. When I turned thirty this year I started a Tumblr dedicated documenting the ways I will spend this monumental year changing and growing. That stuff is more personal than I think I want to have up here, so if you’re interested in my minor freak outs, ridiculous pictures, and occasional reblogs, then please come by and stay a while.
  • A Year With Hafiz: Have I mentioned I’m addicted to Tumblr blogs? Because I think I’m addicted to Tumblr blogs. One of my plans for 2013 was to make my way through the book A Year With Hafiz by documenting a reaction/reflection to each day’s poem. When I mentioned that I was thinking of doing this I was asked by a few people to make it public, so now it is: My Brother, the Light.

Well, none of that should be too hard, so long as I keep my wits about me and forget what it feels like to be lazy. I have some other goals, but they’re mostly money and clutter related and I realize you’re probably not all that interested in hearing about how I most certainly not allowed to buy any more cardigans, because Jesus Crimminy I have way to many cardigans and before I move I should really get rid of some of the freaking cardigans.  So yeah, it’s like that. Are there any things you’re looking forward to accomplishing finally?

Here’s to tomorrow and every day after.

“Ian MacArthur is a wonderful sweet fellow who wears glasses and peers out of them with delight.”

 That was the first sentence. The problem was that I just couldn’t think of the next one. After cleaning my room three times, I decided to leave Ian alone for a while because I was starting to get mad at him.

The Perks of Being a Wallfower, Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower came out my sophomore year of high school. If I’d read it then I probably would have loved it just as much as everyone else seems to. I felt like a watcher then, especially that year. But as is my custom I didn’t get around to it, and then everyone else loved it so I avoided it. I do that sometimes, because I’m afraid that if I don’t love something as much as the other people I love and respect, that their love and respect for me will diminish. Better to be able to plead ignorance and nod along to the lecture you get about the thing. At least it’s still pulling you together that way.

I was perfectly content to live out my years in that ignorance, even though I had easy access to the book. There was a copy on my To Read shelf that had been given to me by a friend at some point along the way. It looked like it was going to be destined to sit there between Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and Jasper Fforde’s The Big Over Easy forever. And then the movie came out.

The movie–surprisingly well-written and well-directed by the author, two things almost unheard of in the Making Movies Out of Books business–is a thing of pain and beauty.  The three leads do a wonderful job of portraying the tumult of teenage life and offering lines that might seem a bit silly in any other context with a large amount of unabashed sincerity that reminds me very much of what it was like to be a teenager. Everything felt so big then. The whole of my life was in front of me, yet every feeling I had and every slight I suffered felt like the last time. I held on to everything, worried that without any of it the rest of my life would unravel empty. In the movie, it’s Patrick (the amazing Ezra Miller, whom I’ve developed quite the crush on) who plays these things out the best, trying to maintain his air of ease and amusement while dealing with an unhealthy relationship that is eating away at him.

The movie broke open my heart and then sewed it up again. I laughed. I cried. I sobbed like a child. The book, which I finished on a plane on my way to Boston this past weekend, is something else entirely.

It’s unusual that a movie affects me more than a book, but I did not leave the book with the same sense of catharsis and hope that clung to me after the movie. In this case I’m tempted to say that the movie got there first, but I don’t think that’s it. I tried to leave the movie out of my reading of the book entirely, knowing that they’re two very different things. The format of the book left me stilted for a large part of it. It’s composed of first person, epistolary, observations from a young man just trying to figure out himself and the world around him. He seems to be a pretty reliable narrator when it comes to everyone but himself, because he’s not trying to persuade us to think things about these people, simply documenting the ways he interacts with them and the how that makes him feel. And maybe that’s it. Because he feels so removed from even the things he’s directly involved in it sometimes reads like a case study of modern youth. I didn’t quite feel the love he said he had for them for most of it.

That’s also one of it’s strengths, though, and the reason I wish I’d read it in ‘99. Because Charlie is viewing everyone through a window you get to see a lot of things that you probably wouldn’t see at all were the book written in another format. The people around him are in messy relationships that leave them vulnerable in different ways and are, for the large part, unable or unwilling to let go of them, even though they might hurt less in the long run.

I wish I’d known in high school that sometimes girls would have boyfriends that hit them and that sometimes girls would make hard decisions about their mistakes and their bodies. I wish I’d known, in a more than academic sense, that sometimes boys fell in love with other boys and that sometimes girls want to ‘explore’ lesbian relationships and that it’s okay. Normal even. I wish that I’d known that it wasn’t a weakness to cling to the small amount of love you think you have, because that’s what everyone does, even well into their adult years. And I wish I’d learned earlier that sometimes you have to laugh, because there’s nothing else you can do. The thing that the book does in an amazing, resonant way, that the movie doesn’t quite do for me, is normalize a whole host of different relationships that would have saved me time and agony had I just known that I wasn’t alone.

And that’s the whole point of it, really. None of us are alone, even when we think we are or want to be. Someone has lived this life before us. Someone has left behind instructions. We just don’t always know how to find them, and even if we do, we’re sometimes too proud and stubborn to believe that we’re not different and special and that the things that happened before aren’t going to help us.

Not only do we accept the love we think we deserve, but we accept the lives we think we’re owed, and we’re not always fair to ourselves. That’s a lesson I really could have used at sixteen, if only I hadn’t been too busy being afraid of the things I wanted to take them.

 

My friend Matthew Bowers and I discuss the film version in more depth over at Wrong Opinions About Movies, so give that a listen if you’re interested in all the ways that film broke me and put me back together, because that would be another 5,000 words if I tried to nail them down here.

.026 – Flight.

It’s that time of the year again. It’s the time of year where the annually new and improved NaNoWriMo forums open up and welcome all of the previously scattered new and old writers into their open arm chairs. It’s comfortable there. It’s nice.

This will be my eighth attempt at making the 50,000 word uphill slog, and if I can stay focused, my 5th “win”. The quotes are there because It’s been quite a while since I decided to work on one story over the course of the month. As of late I’ve been using the month to chat to interesting people while working away on any number of things that I’ll probably never finish. There’s just something that feels productive about failing on four things instead of one. Though I do notice, now that I’m looking at the site, that my win rate directly correlates with my decisions to actually work on one project through to the end. This year I’m bringing the focus back. It’s simultaneously comfortable and nerve wracking, because while I’m moving back to the novel format I’m also moving into a new genre. Or rather, a couple of new genres. It feels like time to focus on this YA/Magical Realism novel, and I’ve never really seen myself as a person who writes either of those things.

Of course, I’m not really a person who writes anything in the eyes of the rest of the world, since my finish rate is dismal and my attention rate is ADD lite at the best of times. I’m really good at research and scene development, I’m not so good at tying those things together into a completed manuscript. But there’s a first time for everything! There has to be, if I’m ever to become who I want to become. (A published author. And also maybe someone who owns a baby tiger. I’m still trying to talk the boyfriend into that one.)

I found this video while doing some light googling on flock mentality in migrating birds. It’s relevant to the story, I promise. But more importantly, it’s a beautiful piece of art that I wish I could see in person and want to share. The information from the video page says:

FLYLIGHT is an interactive light installation by Studio DRIFT that composes of a minimum of 80 glass tubes.The glass tubes that light up and respond to the viewer are inspired by the behaviour of a flock of birds and the fascinating patterns they seem to make randomly in the air.

Actually this behaviour is not as accidental as it looks; birds have to keep a safe distance from the other birds in front, below, above and next them. They all want to be in the middle of the group and no one wants to be the leader, flying in the front. And what will happen if an intruder interrupts this? This is what the viewer will experience when approaching the Flylight.

You can read more about DRIFT at their website, and see videos of their other work at their Vimeo page.

And so, Nanos, who’s ready to fly come November?

.025 – Where’ve ya been, Lars?

Oh hey there, internet. I did not mean to run quite so far away. I just started going and then found myself somewhere near the end of it all and decided to turn around and start over again. It’s basically the story of my life.  How have you been?

 

The places I’ve been.

I’ve been quite busy while I was away.  I went to Dragon*Con, which my friend Alli and I discussed a bit on the Jaws/Raiders of the Lost Ark episode of Wrong Opinions About Movies. When people ask me about whether or not I think they should attend Dragon*Con I always give them an enthusiastic and slightly pushy ‘yes’. For me it’s the best weekend of the year, and even though I start out every con weekend with the same plan of attack, it always ends up being a unique experience. This con was no exception, as I did maybe half as many panels as usual, spending my time instead dabbling in costuming and hanging out with people I don’t get to see on a day to day basis. It gave the weekend an entirely different feel, but was still completely wonderful.

And while I was at Con–more specifically, while I was sitting in a Tactical First Aid panel learning how to deliver your babies during the mother effing apocalypse(!)–I got the email notification that a poem I wrote had finally been published online. I’m so excited!

I linked it around before, but in case you missed it you can read “HOPE for the AFFLICTED!” here at Exercise Bowler along with some other rad steampunk themed poetry.

I feel very grateful to Exercise Bowler, not only for posting poetry that I like on quarterly basis, but also for sharing something I wrote with the world. It’s my first published piece and I’m very excited to be able to produce things people won’t absolutely hate in the future. Let’s all raise a glass to that possibility.  

And in the theme of possibility, I’ve started a Tumblr Blog that I really want to share with you. I turned 30 while I was away, and while I’m not anymore stressed about 30 than I was about 29–because seriously, nothing can be worse than 25–I would still like to spend this year focused on learning about myself and my place in the world around me. So Wasting My Thirties is there just for that. Come learn with me. Come teach me. Come point and laugh and just be along for the ride.

 

The places I’ll go.

In the vein of the things I’ve been doing while I was away, I’ve been trying to figure out how best to use this space. I want to use it talk about writing and share information about when my friends and I are published or start exciting projects, but I also want it to be fun and informal and a place for us to just chat. So here are some things you might see here in the future.

Wrong Opinions About ALL The Movies! Sometimes I watch a movie for the podcast and find myself unable to really discuss what it is about it that has affected me, partially because I’m incredibly dense when it comes to sorting out my own feelings and partially because conversations sometimes just don’t work that way. I also watch movies that aren’t going to be discussed on the podcast, but that I still feel a need to touch on somewhere. I’m going to start doing that here as I feel the urge to. The first movie will probably be Circumstance, because that film was so much more than the American trailer led me to believe it would be.

Research, the breakfast of champions! The other thing I want to start sharing more often is the off the wall research I do for the projects I’m working on. I write a lot of science fiction, mostly steampunk and cyberpunk, which leads me down the rabbit hole of Wikipedia and peer reviewed magazines on a quite regular basis.  I think it would be fun to start sharing some of the more interesting things here. It would also give me an excuse to do that post on underwear my friend Chrysta requested.

Any old thing you want me to be! And to that end, because I want this to ultimately be a place you like checking in on, is there anything you’d like to see me post? Is there anything you just want to have a conversation about with another person? I’m here for all your conversatin’, distractionary needs! You just let me know what I can do for you and I’ll probably do it! (Because I’m easy that way. Just love me!)

 

So that is a plan. We’ll see how well I stick to it. If nothing else I have a draft of a short story due to someone by the end of October, so I really should get on finishing and fixing it, or possibly weakly calling for help. Whichever. You’ll know when I do.

023. – In which the priest asks why we’ve left the candlesticks behind.

Sometimes I tell people I’m stealing things.  Little things: a tissue, a handful of M&Ms, sips of a beer from the other side of the table, a pen off a co-worker’s desk.  When I say this I’m kidding.  I’m not actually stealing anything.  Most of the time the things have been offered to me freely at some point or another.  It’s because of this that on occasion someone will respond to me very seriously and say ‘you’re not stealing, I’ve given it to you.’  These people want to shake me, I’m sure, because stealing is no laughing matter.  And it’s not, no matter how blasé I may appear to be about the concept.  I try to take very few things seriously, but as a writer who would like to one day be published, creative output is serious business.  It’s my second job, even as I’m still learning to treat it like one.

The things a person can show you about themselves and how they view the world via what they create are startling.  It’s almost a contract of understanding between the creator and viewer.  At times it’s tantamount to love in the way that we accept the things that creative people show us and take them into account as a whole.  To love is to open your heart and to trust, and when we’re mistreated by love or creativity and our trust is broken it hurts.

I’ve been reading the Jonah Lehrer book Imagine for work.  I probably would have read it anyway eventually, because of the subject matter, but my boss wanted us to read it as part of an ongoing curiosity initiative.  As of this typing I’m only about 200 pages into it.  I’ve been highlighting bits of quotes and observations as I go with the intention of placing them somewhere where I could find them after I pass the iPad on, but now I’m not sure I want to.  I’m not sure I can trust them, and I worry that that goes against my reasons for highlighting them in the first place.

When we’re presented with another person’s creative output we usually have an understanding of its relative true-ness.  Fiction is no less true than non-fiction within the context of the fictional world.  I frequently highlight things characters say, because I agree or disagree with them, or because there’s a small bit of myself to be found there, or because they’ve hit on an idea that I want to explore. I do this with the understanding of the author’s intent in showing us what they have about this character and what we are meant to feel because of that.  I went into Imagine feeling that that intent was to explore the parts and pieces of creativity via the way people go about creating things and to understand how to get the most from these bouts and push yourself to think of creativity as a muscle you can work instead of waiting for inspiration to strike.  And…that’s still true, right?

As someone who was closer than I wanted to be to a plagiarism to do several months ago, there’s a bit of visceral recoiling in my gut now when I think to read more of the book.  Granted, Jonah Lehrer plagiarized himself, which isn’t nearly as bad in my eyes—authors re-purpose ideas and concepts and the like all the time, though maybe not quite as literally—but he also completely fabricated facts and quotations, which means that my understanding of how I’m supposed to look at the ideas within the book is tainted, regardless of how the information is still more or less exactly what I expect it to be.  It’s made all the more troubling by the quote he gave to Stephen Colbert (emphasis mine):

 […]You fall in love with something and then you steal it. That you make it your own, you reinvent it, you in a sense misremember it. And that’s an important part of creativity which is why it’s so important to create a culture where people can liberally borrow from the ideas of others. […] And so you see this again and again among very creative people. They have very open minds, they read everything, they’re incredibly curious, and they steal a lot.

Creative people do have very open minds. They do read everything, at least the writers I know do.  I imagine as a musician it would be more important to listen to all the things and as an artist it would be more important to take in all the art, but dipping liberally into all of the wells available to us will allow us to draw connections we may not have previously, and to me that’s the most important part.  Creativity is not theft.  That is a very simplistic way of looking at a process that devours, synthesizes, and then releases something entirely new.  It’s not re-purposing or rehashing so much as it’s reconstructing from the ground up, at which point the foundation is no longer the thing that gave us the idea in the first place.

So my question is: Is learning from fiction that was presented to us as true any different than learning from fiction that we know is fiction going in?  Can this book still be useful to me in the way my boss wants it to be?  I think it’s probable that it can, but I’m going to need to go back and take a look at the things I’ve highlighted, just to make sure that the understanding I had of them before hasn’t been changed.  And of course, any Bob Dylan quotes I’m thinking of keeping will have to be attributed to the author as they are, after all, simply dialogue in a work of fiction.

.022 – He’s here. The Bat…man.

With two short hours until the official east coast release of The Dark Knight Rises, my entire twitter feed is bursting with excitement.  But this isn’t a fresh flurry of twitterpated fans, this has been ramping up for months now as marketing people and DC employees have worked tirelessly to not let us forget that the most important Bat-event of our lives is about to rain down on us like glass from an art museum ceiling.  Everything everywhere has been all Batman all the time.

I’d be remiss in pretending like I haven’t been a part of that deluge.  The Wrong Opinions About Movies podcast crew worked with a whole host of guests over the last two months on a project we’ve affectionately dubbed Batcon.  We watched almost every Batman movie and then unpacked each one in a mini-episode along with some stellar friends.  My personal favorite of the bunch is the Batman Forever episode, which we recorded with comedian Andrew Sanford.  Nothing says the universe loves me quite like Val Kilmer in the cowl.

Since we started this immersion course in a universe I already have a lot of love for, I’ve been doing some thinking about Batman and the movies they make about him.  Watching anything back to back to back will throw the things that you dislike into sharp relief with the things you do, and I’ve been turning over in my head a list of things I’d like to never see in a Batman movie again.  (The Waynes dying in an alley, Barbara as Not A Gordon, ice puns, etc.)  But along with that I’ve also been thinking about the things that I’m pining for.  The comics universe that has been built around Bruce Wayne and his made family is massive.  Why do we make the same movies over and over again?  It seems that no matter who writes the movies we get Bruce’s manpain, several villains picked out of a hat, and an added dash of origin.  According to the Wiki article there are 16 current members of the more or less immediate Bat-family.  (I would argue whether some of them are appropriate, but that’s a whole other post entirely.)

So, with this information, what other movies could we write that would engage the lay-audiences while not boring those of us who spend way too much time thinking about Gotham anyway?  I’ve come up with five I’d like to see.

1. Under the Red Hood
This is an easy starting place, because Warner Brothers already released a nicely done animated version of the story line straight to home video in 2010.  The average film going audience isn’t going to be familiar with Jason Todd (or any Robin that isn’t Dick Grayson), but it wouldn’t be hard to compress his meeting with Bruce–trying to steal the rims from the Batmobile–and his capture and subsequent ‘murder’ at the hands of the Joker.  The fact that Jason comes back to Gotham as a hard hitting, life taking, smarm monster does more to dent Bruce’s self-worth than Poison Ivy, Bane, and Mr. Freeze can together.  And Jason’s lack of redemption in Bruce’s eyes would be an excellent driving force for a sequel.

2. Batman Beyond
Even the curlicue of storytelling that comic books call continuity has to admit that Bruce Wayne can’t be Batman forever.  Eventually he’ll grow old and resign himself to a desk.  Enter Terry McGinnis, the Batman of the future.  I’ll leave you to search for the main plot points in the wikipedia article if you’re curious, but Batman Beyond could have all of the elements that we as a society fear the most these days: corporate conglomerates, chemical weapons, a whole gang devoted to the memory of The Joker.  Batman Beyond as a movie would be the most radical change you could make at this point, since it would leave us with very few remembered characters.  It would be a drastic pull away from the Batman movies we’ve grown comfortable with.

3. Nightwing
Eventually, Dick Grayson grew up, and much more gracefully than Chris O’Donnell ever let on.  At the age of eighteen he was dismissed from his Robin duties and took on the mantle of Nightwing (along with some truly tragic costumes).  This is a movie that could happen in Gotham, but it could also introduce his part time home of Bludhaven, where Dick went to get away from Gotham and be out from under Batman’s teflon wing.  He worked on the police force during the day, so the investment in keeping his alter ego and his true ego separate would have even more at stake than Bruce, whose eccentricities can often be played off as just what money does.  The great thing about a Nightwing movie would be the shift in tone.  Dick is very much not Bruce Wayne, even when they’re together.  Given room to breathe his character is inspiring and responsible while also being a bit silly and game for a laugh.  Even for the short time that Dick wore the Batman mantle himself he let hope and his heart rule out over his head.

4. Oracle
Ladies!  There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether or not a female superhero can carry a film franchise.  I like to think that one could, given the right writer.  (If the universe could arrange for Joss Whedon to write the Black Widow movie, I’d be eternally in its debt.)  And even without the ‘right’ writer, Barbara Gordon is so much more than a cape or a character confined to a wheelchair.  As Oracle Babs is a fighter, a librarian, and the world’s greatest communications/research gal a detective, Suicide Squad, or group of female vigilantes could have.  Our daily lives are increasingly falling prey to the technology we let in, and Barbara’s ability to manipulate that, as well as her physical prowess, could make for a compelling and modern story.  The studio could even include the events of The Killing Joke if it had to, but I’d rather her story be more about strength and intellect and less about depression and fear.

5.  Batwoman  
Ladies on ladies!  This addition is even more personally indulgent than the one about Nightwing.  Kate Kane is my current favorite member of the Bat-family.  She’s relatively new, having been introduced as the current incarnation of Batwoman in 2006, but her story is timely.  She was a student at the United States Military Academy when she was outed as having a relationship with a woman.  When confronted by the higher ups and asked to just deny the claims so she could stay, she leaves her class ring on his desk and quits.  This happens several months before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed for us in the real world.  From there she goes on to fight the ills of the world the best way she knows how.  Batwoman’s stories tend to have a more supernatural element than a lot of the other tales told about the Bat-family, so they would probably appease the paranormal romance crowd.  She’s contrary while holding strong convictions and she refuses to cowtow to Batman, even though she’s working within his city.  She’s honestly, and I have been holding off on saying this for a little over a thousand words now, the hero we need and deserve.  In my eyes, anyway.

Above all, I think the key to introducing new Bat-family characters to the movie going audiences is to not doubt the movie going audiences.  For the most part, we’re not stupid.  We are introduced to new characters and new stories every year and have no problems taking in their hopes and fears and journeys of discovery.  Why should it be any different with properties that might be familiar?  What do you think?  Do you disagree vehemently with the stories I’d like to see?  Would you hate or love these movies?  Which stories would you like to see them tell about Batman and his caped cohorts?  I can, as you might have noticed, talk about Batman until the Bat-cows come home.  So sound off!  But if you post spoilers for the movie, please give us a heads up so we can all avoid them until we’ve seen it.

.021 – Call and Response

I’m not quite as stupid as I let people make me feel.  I know this intellectually because I still have all those scores from different tests they gave us in school to try and separate out the chaff.  (This doesn’t work, by the by, there’s a lot of book smart chaff.)  I know this practically, because if I put my mind to mechanical things and cookery type things and artistic type things I can figure them out, even if I haven’t been taught how to do them.  Sometimes it’s just about taking something apart and putting it back together again, which is a quiet activity–except for the bouts of creative swearing–that lets me focus on my hands and not overthink the processes.  So perhaps it’s not surprising that the points in my life where I feel the most stupid are the points where someone, a person, is standing across from me asking me a question and expecting a response.

Soon.

Now.

Just spit it out already what is your problem why won’t you answer me don’t you want to talk me?

That.  I’m not good with that.

And it’s not even always that I don’t know the answer.  It’s just that finding the answer in my big, confusing brain decorated solely with non sequiturs is, well, it’s hard.

I recently went to a couple Big Fancy Art Museums (TM) with a friend I don’t see often because she lives very, very far away.  At each of them she wanted to know, before we had seen everything in the museum, what my favorite piece was.  If I could take one thing home, what would it be?  There’s nothing that makes my brain freeze up quite like a question like that.  That question is loaded with expectations, even if it isn’t meant to be.  The first time I came up with something.  I mean, the breath did kind of get knocked out of me when I turned a corner at the MFA in Boston and spotted John White Alexander’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil at the far end of a set of rooms, framed by successive door openings that forced the perspective.  The lighting in it is amazing.

The second time I didn’t even try to answer, begging off that I hadn’t seen it all yet.  I couldn’t possibly know. The real reason is simply that my brain doesn’t work that way.  I like to amble and wander and learn.  I like to take in everything and then sit with it for a little bit before I have to come back to it.  And ‘a little bit’ could be the afternoon.  It could be the day. The first time I read Camus I fell for his words with my heart, but it took my head a good week to really comprehend what was being said there, about life, the universe, and everything.

We like to think of intelligence as speed.  A person is said to be quick witted or a fast learner.  If you’re smart then your brain works like a cyberpunk hypejack.  The information buzzes through it at four times the speed of light, often lit up neon.  If your brain works another way, a more mechanical way, well then, the poor dear tries, doesn’t she?  Because very often my brain feels mechanical.  I have to put a lot of focus toward walking the halls in the way I’ve trained myself to and not just letting myself jump about.  I’m an ADD kid and I don’t take the medicine! is often my excuse.

I actually fear ADD medication more than I fear people thinking I’m stupid, because I don’t trust any drug that might alter my brain.  I worry that it will alter who I am.  I’ve spent 29 years becoming used to being me, for better or worse.  Why throw it all out the window now?  But it’s true, and it’s also an excuse.  It’s an excuse I feel I shouldn’t have to make.  But you know, there’s nothing quite like people cutting their eyes down when you screw up a word or a name or a Batman subplot or can’t collect an answer to their questions quickly enough.  It makes you cringe inward and want to hide.  That people walk away from me sometimes and think that I’m not interested or not interesting or dumb causes spirals of bad feelings I’m still kind of learning to control.  And I’m learning that coming up with an answer at any costs isn’t the right way to do it.  That doesn’t make people think I’m any smarter.

When you ask questions, be patient.  Be kind.  Understand that if a person cannot answer you at the moment it’s not that they don’t want to.  That person would probably like nothing more than to move the focus to someone other than themselves, if only they could come up with a way to shift it.

I say I’m stupid kind of a lot.  It’s a defense mechanism, you see.  It’s how I feel sometimes, because I’m just never going to win any races and a lot of the people around me can.  I’m proud of them.  I’m learning that that doesn’t mean I have to compare myself to them and feel out of sorts about it.  Everyone has a talent after all, and there are some very intelligent people who can’t change the tires on their car.  As we move into an age where everything is going to come faster and more technological, we should be conscious of making sure that the mechanical is still held in some regard.  Without it, we wouldn’t be where we were now at all.

This post was actually brought to you by a bit of musing about whether our ability to stave off age will make us less likely to require fairytales that focus on maintaining youth and beauty.  That’s just the weird, non sequitur way in which my mind works.

My favorite piece of art at the MoMA, by the way, is Rendezvous of Friends – The Friends Become Flowers by Max Ernst.  I’ve been a fan of Ernst’s collage work for quite a while, so seeing his paintings in person made me a bit lightheaded with excitement.  I would almost say it was surreal, but the way in which I’m not funny is a whole other post altogether.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑