Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Second Week

Today brings a conclusion to the second week of The Bradbury Method and the start of the third. It's tough, this deal. Making me realize some things about the style of short story that I write. I know the types I like to read and obviously there is a certain imitation to the styles of those in search of my own voice. Etgar Keret and Joe Hill have been particular inspirations, as I'm sure I've mentioned before. And Raymond Carver. Neil Gaiman. Charles Bukowski.

Short pieces of fiction that are not only self-contained but satisfying in their own way. I've realized about myself that I don't write very long short stories. Now, I know it may seem counter-intuitive to have a "long short story" but it's not, really. A short story can go anywhere, it seems, from 500 to 15,000 words. After that, it's really a novella. My peak seems to be anywhere up to and including about 3000 words. Anything longer than that and I feel I might as well make it a damn book. I don't even really like reading short stories that are more than about ten pages. I like them short. That's why I like Keret and Bukowski especially - easy bite-sized chunks of interesting dialogue and happenstance.

I wrote a story on the first day of this week. One I'm pretty happy with. I think I might chop off the ending; I think I just wrote the last paragraph because I felt the story was too short but it doesn't really fit. Some parts in the middle could maybe use some expanding or made to flow better, but it's there on paper. It's written. That's two for two so far. I have to start a new one tonight or at least sometime this week. I have the idea, at least.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Aurora Massacre is NOT a Religious Debate

If you've been keeping up with the news, you know about the Aurora Massacre shootings in Colorado. If you don't, then a) read the news every now and then and b) it's the story of a guy, James Holmes, who waited outside a movie theatre in Colorado and gunned down a crowd going in for a midnight session of The Dark Knight Rises. 12 people were killed and 58 were wounded: men, women and children. As police arrested him, he announced "I'm the Joker!" It's likely the man is a little off-balance.

It's a national tragedy for Americans, one of the worst mass shootings in American history. It's called to the fore opinions and discussions on gun control - Holmes was armed with about four guns, some of which were rapid fire, and 6000 rounds of ammunition he had acquired completely legally. It has nothing at all to do with religion.

Then I saw this story.

In case you can't read it, that is a story about Loonies-in-Residence the Westboro Baptist Church, otherwise known as the "God Hates Fags" protesters, declaring that they will "super picket" the prayer vigils for the victims of the massacre. The announced this on Twitter with hastags like #ThankGodForTheShooter and #godsenttheshooter.
Reddit users and the Denver Comic Con urged people to join in on a "wall of Love" to prevent the WBC from reaching the vigil.

Now, this may seem pretty in keeping with what the WBC does if you know anything about them - and they've been in the media a lot. But, then Jerry Newcombe joined the crazy brigade, telling people that this happened because "America has lost its fear of hell", going on to say that only the Christians amongst the dead were going to heaven, and that "if [they don't] know Jesus Christ.. if they knowingly rejected Jesus Christ, then, basically, they are going to a terrible place". Oh yeah, because that's what they're loved ones want to hear, you bastard!
He then used some of his airtime to springboard into telling people that in light of this awful tragedy, now would be a good time to become a Christian and confess your sins because, who knows, YOU COULD BE NEXT!

Right on the heels of that, Holmes' old pastor came out and said that Holmes was always "a shy boy who was driven to succeed academically".  Okay, I know that people need some perspective on this guy to try and understand his actions, but why did they ask his pastor? He even said he hasn't spoken to Holmes in six years! SIX YEARS! A lot can change then, Pastor!

Holmes is now receiving death threats from other inmates. When they brought him in he was "dressed up like the Joker, 'acting crazy' and 'spitting on guards'";
“All the inmates were talking about killing him," just-released inmate Wayne Medley told the Daily News. "Everyone was looking for an opportunity. It’s all they could talk about."
So, I guess even the prisoners don't like him. Because he did something horrendous. Not because of anything religious, they want to kill him because he's a dick. Religion has no place in the arena of this case and it is doing nothing but hurt the families of the injured and deceased.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Bathroom Etiquette

I have a whole slew of peculiar eccentricities when it comes to numbers, social contracts and germs. I'm a hypochondriac who's afraid of needles to get blood tests. I have to do everything in even numbers - eat, kiss, steps taken with each foot. I don't like to touch anything in a public bathroom and will do as much as I can do avoid this when I'm in them and still wash my hands.

Also, for some odd reason - probably related to my face - I get a lot of strangers talking to me. On the bus, on the train, on the street, on planes. Anywhere. They will approach me, ask something or say something, and then just stick around. And because I'm so damn Canadian (RE: polite) I find it very hard to extricate myself from the situation lest something force me (e.g. the train I have to get on arrives and they are not getting on it).

All in all, I live a mildly awkward life.

There is, however, one place that I've found that people mostly preserve the sacred code and that is in the public restroom. Everyone knows that - in the men's room, anyway - you go in, do your business, and you leave. Like in an elevator, you don't speak (unless it's just you and your buddies), you barely make eye contact with anyone if you can and then you get out.

So when the fuck did it become okay for people to just chatty-McChat-chat in the goddamn bathroom?

For the longest time - and the worst offenders are at work - it would just be I'd walk in, nod at whoever was at the sink if they noticed me, I'd go in and do my business and leave, nodding at whoever else walked in. Now, it seems, I walk in and whoever is at the sink not only says "hello" but does their merry best to engage me in conversation.

"How are you?"
"How's your dad?"
"How's work treating you?"

I bluff past this until the bathroom proper where thankfully there is but one urinal and two stalls. On my way out, whoever is coming in says something to me. When I'm at the sink, someone comes in and chats. Someone comes out of the bathroom stall and chats.


The worst is walking into the bathroom, some people are chatting and then on my way out they're still there! No. The bathroom is not a place to have a chat. It's a place to piss, shit, wash your hands/face and get the fuck out.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: Gotham's Reckoning

Since the end of The Dark Knight, like any fan, I have been eagerly anticipating The Dark Knight Rises. It was like seeing The Empire Strikes Back and waiting so long to know the end of the story as it comes in Return of the Jedi. I don't think I could make this paragraph any geekier. Sufficed to say, I was excited.

I was concerned though, too, that I was hyping myself up too much and that - because my expectations were so high - I would ruin the movie for myself. It's the same trap we all fall into for a highly anticipated movie - especially a sequel to a much loved film.

In all honesty, however, I was not disappointed. The sheer scale of TDKR is one of the things I found so astonishing. Christopher Nolan said he wanted to make a large scale film in the behind-the-scenes featurette and how he has prevailed.

In the film, Gotham is about to get its comeuppance by criminal mastermind Bane (Tom Hardy). Batman (Christian Bale) has been off the streets for 8 years in the wake of Harvey Dent's (Aaron Ekhart) death in The Dark Knight. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is the only one who knows the truth and is tortured by it. Meanwhile, hothead cop and idealist Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is on the streets, believing that Gotham needs the Batman again.

Anne Hathaway does a magnificent job as Catwoman - the best ever rendering of the character on film to date. She embodied the sensuality, the slyness and the violence that accompanies the character in the comics, and did so without ever making one bad cat pun, or purring.

This was definitely Christian Bale's best Batman performance, starting with a weakened Bruce Wayne and back into the swing of Batman. He portrayed a depth and brooding to the character that was remarkable.

But truly, my hat must be tipped to Tom Hardy. His performance as Bane was not only magnificent, but terrifying. Those who have read the comics know what Bane can do and has done. He is a monster of the highest calibre, and Tom Hardy did not disappoint. Honestly, if the track was laid down by Heath Ledger for his performance as the Joker, it's all set for Hardy to receive his own Oscar nomination (at least).

This film was so epic in scale, it was mind-boggling. The sheer number of extras required, the amount of story that occurred, character arcs coming to conclusion! The sheer Dr. Zhivago-esque grandeur of the film is unmistakeable.

If you are a comic book fan - and I speak as one - thenthis movie was pretty perfect. Elements of Batman: Knightfall, The Dark Knight Returns and Gates of Gotham. A glance of some of the comics that influenced Nolan during filming are outlined here. Even if you're not a comic book fan and merely enjoyed the first two movies, this film will not disappoint you. It is a fitting ending to the trilogy and does so in a way that we've come to expect from Christopher Nolan. 9/10


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The First Week

It's the end of the first week of the Bradbury Method - 52 short stories in a year - and so far, things are actually going pretty well. The point of the...experiment I guess is the best word, is to just get the stories out, not necessarily have them polished.

So, on that front, I'm succeeding. While I didn't allow myself as much writing time as I would've liked this week, I still managed to churn out what I consider to be a pretty good - if unpolished - short story. It needs some tweaks and some expansion on certain points, but I got out the beginning, middle and ending.

Amusingly enough, it wasn't the story I initially sat down to write. I started writing it and got a page or so in when I had to drop it because I had started it in my Gmail drafts at work when there was nothing to do and then I left for home. I don't have the internet at home so it was a few days before I finally got it off the email to be able to work on it at home. By the time I did that, I had completely forgotten the road I was originally going to take with the story.

I just stared at it. For what seemed like an hour. Just looking at this thing I had written that clearly started with some intent and then just stopped. It stopped on an important, twist moment, too. One that I didn't remember where I was taking it.

So, I made something else up. I took up the tattered bottom of the story and I stitched it up with something new and came up with a pretty appropriate ending for the story. What's great about this, is that I've rarely ever done this before. Usually, if I start a short story and come back to it some time afterward and I've forgotten what exactly I had originally intended, I leave it and start something else. Not this time. I swore to myself if I started a story, I would finish it. And I did. And it felt good.

I've been reading a lot of Etgar Keret recently as well and he showed me that no matter how bizarre the idea is, it can totally work in the story as long as the language is good enough and the story takes you somewhere deep. Also, that it doesn't matter how short the story is.

Okay. I got this. Maybe.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cold Sores

I've been holding in a rant like this for a long time but I've decided that I can't anymore. In the last week I've had one cold sore, it's gone away, and then another one has grown on another part of my lip.

For those of you who've never had a cold sore - and consider yourselves fucking lucky - not only are they ugly as hell, but they hurt, make you feel dirty and sick, and feel like you are lugging around something on your face that is the size of a truck tyre.

The worst part about them, for me I think, is not just that I could give them to my girlfriend if we're not super careful. It's not even that I feel super run down, unattractive and generally dirty by having one - I constantly wash my hands and am afraid to touch any exposed skin, on anyone. No, for me, the worst part was that I never had a chance without them. Ever.

I didn't have the luxury of it being my fault that I get them. It's not that I made some youthful mistake and now have to live with those consequences. At least then, though I'd hate it, that would be my bad. What upsets me, is that that wasn't the case. I've always had them.

When I was about one, my folks took me to a family gathering to see my grandmother in Israel. As we were leaving, a family friend - and we don't even know which one - kissed both my dad and I goodbye. The surprise being that she was carrying on her face one of these little bastards. The next day, mine and my dad's faces erupted in cold sores - on our lips, on our cheeks, inside our mouths - and from that day forth, we would get them every other month.

Thankfully, as I've gotten older, their occurrence is less and less, but they still happen. If I've had a week where I'm tired or just after I've gotten sick, my lip will swell with one of these time-eating, kiss-stealing bastards and I'll feel crap all over again.

The creams help, but everyone knows what's going on there. They can all see it. And they see it and they think of you covered in the fuckers like you're some dirty leper. They imagine them all over you, on your junk. I'm sure they imagine getting them just by looking at you.

It's especially difficult on a relationship because you don't realize how much you rely on kissing and how much it feeds your emotions until you can't do it anymore. It's actually depressing, disheartening and destructive. I know. I just went through it.

I once got four in a month. FOUR IN A MONTH. I bought some very expensive pills and some cream and they went away, but my mouth was sore for a while. My upper lip has a scar from where they keep coming back. And that's what sucks too, they always come back in the same places.

And you can never get rid of them. Sure, if you have type 2 herpes (the one most commonly on your junk) you can get the pills for cheaper on prescription and you can keep that under control - if you're smart. No such luck for type 1 people (the one most commonly on your lips), just creams, which turn them into gross scabs and then, likely, a small scar.

I can feel people staring at them when I have them. It's very uncomfortable. So, I guess what I'm saying is don't judge someone immediately because they have a cold sore. It doesn't mean they're dirty or they're gross or irresponsible. They could just have been shit out of luck.

Did you know that it's estimated that 1 in 6 Australians carry the herpes virus? Whether that's type 1, type 2 or from having had glandular fever - yup, that's a herpes virus! So yeah, it's pretty common. We're not freaks. It's just something unlucky that happened.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Bradbury Method

If you read this blog, you know I like to write fiction. Sometimes it's based in reality, sometimes not. I want to be a writer, is what I'm saying.

Well, I've decided to take up a challenge.

My friend Omar has decided to start up doing The Bradbury Method and do one short story every week for a full year. Ray Bradbury would write one short story a week; write it on Monday, edit it Tuesday through Saturday and send it off on Sunday. We're going to attempt to do just that.

It's going to be a slog and I might not make it the whole way, but I know I'll at least have something to show for it by the end - like a year long NaNoWriMo.

I'll probably need some support before this thing is through, so thank you all in advance. I'll keep you posted on how it's going and anyone who wants to read anything I've got just let me know.

Here goes nothing.


Monday, July 9, 2012

io9 Concpet Writing Prompt!

Io9 run a segment where they post a piece of concept art and users are encouraged to write the story behind it. This week's image is "The Night Train," by Ryan Mauskopf. I decided to finally give this a go.

The Night Train

Mika looked into the drink can.

"Are you sure this is going to work?" she asked. "We need to be unrecognizable to the Underrealm folk."

Rick snuffled a snort-filled response and she looked over. Where he'd once sat, there was now a towering mound of hair, a great animal that looked both strong and kind. He shuffled the briefcase on his lap and snuffled again.

"Oh," Mika said.

She turned to Red and where his head had been was now smoke and fire, a cone of radiating heat. He turned to Mika and gave an attempt at a smile.

"Right," Mika took a sip from the drink. "I guess here goes nothing."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dog Exercise

Okay, so maybe this is me, but there's something I find cruel about dog exercising.
Not the kind of thing where you take your dog to the park, run around, play fetch and have fun kind of exercise. That's all joy and wonder.

No, what I'm talking about is something like dog training.

I was walking through the park and I saw this big, brawny guy with his pet Staffy. The dog had a harness on and a number of heavy weights attached to it by a cord. The man would them call the dog over, getting it to run - lopsided because the weights wouldn't trail directly behind it - and he would time how long it took the dog to run to him each time.

Now, I know there are probably some good reasons for dog training, though the only one I could think of is Police Dog stuff, and this sure as hell wasn't that. This was just some guy who wanted his Staffy to have that really bulked up front look. Maybe to be a guard dog, maybe because he wanted a dog as bulky as him.

Either way, it seemed cruel to me to watch this dog hauling these weights behind it, clearly encumbered and uncomfortable, lopsided and pulling everything with its neck.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Stories from Nothing: Crying at Work

The Catalyst: No too long ago, I saw someone walking through the corridor at work, crying on their mobile phone. So I got to thinking...

The Story: "Yes, I understand," she said, covering her face as she walked past a workmate in the hallway. He looked at her but said nothing and walked on. The tears burned down her face. "I'll be there."

"Damn right you will," said the voice on the other end of the line. "For, if you are not, you shall not see your husband again."
The line went dead and she was left hanging there, holding onto the phone. She leaned against a nearby wall and collected herself, wiping her tears away on her sleeve. No police, he'd said. They always said that in the movies. She'd always screamed at the characters that didn't call the police, or turn on the light in a dark room in a horror flick.
She looked down at her phone and pressed the "emergency call" button and dialed 000. A bored sounding operator spoke down the line.
"Hello triple zero, what is your emergency?"
She told her everything. The man, her husband, the demands - everything.

After work she went to the mailbox on the corner of Kent and Broadway that the man on the other end of the phone had told her to go to. She waited until 6pm like she'd said she would. A black van pulled up, screeched to a halt and threw a brown box at her feet and sped off.
"Wait!" she screamed. "Wait! Where is he?!"
A police car, sirens wailing, zoomed after the van.
She looked at the box at her feet. She knew this part in the movie. She could smell the blood.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Comic

So, a while back I apologized for not writing much and then proceeded to not write much. Sorry about that.

In that post, I mentioned that I was working on a comic book with a friend of mine. Well, things are going really well with it right now and if you haven't already, I'd sure like and appreciate it if you'd go and check it out on Facebook.

The comic is called Deadguard and is a horror/Western set just after the First World War when the gates to Hell erupt open and demons spew forth across the land.

It's written by yours truly and my friend Omar from Scratch That and is illustrated by Chris J Fredericks of Abyssopus Studios.

Hope you like it and enjoy! No release date yet unfortunately, but I'll keep you all posted!