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Monday, December 31, 2007

Top Ten 2007

My Top Ten Moments of 2007.

My GGR, my culture plays a game called "top ten lists". It is a very common game at the end of a year. First, an explanation. By "my culture" I am referring to my little world of experience and the parts of which I assume that the people I know also experience. So, mass media, which reaches everyone I speak with, is part of my culture whereas my sore ankle is not (although, if everyone I knew had a sore ankle from a similar basketball injury then I would consider this shared experience to be culture).

I call "top ten" a game but that's not really the language we would use. There's no popularized word for the specific filters that mainstream culture encourages us to use to experience the world. Top ten lists have been around as long as I can remember. I call it a game because it is puzzling, challenging, and creative task to prioritize things into an order which can be debated. The mass media often organizes entertainment into top ten (or even top 100) lists. Everyone in my culture has a general sense of the top ten television shows, movies, and people (yes we are even given lists that rank people). At the end of the year the "top ten" game is commonly used to reflect upon the past 365 days. We are bombarded with top ten lists. Even top ten moments within the top ten television shows. So I'm going to play the game of top ten with my personal recollections of 2007. I present them in the order that I remember them. There's no regular criteria for a top ten list (allowing them to be endlessly debatable). I suspect the underlying criteria for most entertainment lists is ability to generate advertising revenue.

1. Performing on stage and announcing that I would like to take the next step to being an artist worthy of watching: and that step is total honesty and full disclosure. I asked the audience if they had any questions to challenge me. The whole day I was worried they were going to ask me what images I find sexually arousing and in the end they only asked me what I am most afraid of (death) and if I had ever hurt someone (of course, I told a story about the only completely malicious prank I pulled).

2. Finishing the writing of my feature length script. It was late, I was delusional, and one of the last scenes was so heartfelt that I started to cry. I hope everyone watches the movie on little sleep.

3. My final MEI trip was a masterpiece. I was very aware that I had hit my stride teaching philosophy and helping to lead the trip through Spain and France. I still feel I have a lot of history to learn. I know little about India, and reading Rebellion in the Backlands reminds me I know next to nothing about Brazil. But I am proud of my knowledge. Nothing surprises me in European history anymore. I feel like I have the whole picture and I know exactly where new puzzle pieces will fit.

4. Communication. Writing a script put a lot of thing into perspective for me and I feel like I have emerged as a greater conversationalist -speaker, and listener. I am honored that people trust me more and consider me unnervingly insightful. It's definitely related to becoming a better lover. I guess this is more of a theme than a moment.

5. Haunting of Matt Lemche. Technically, this was last December, but it carried through 2007. Making a short film with Matt was a great experience. It was quite rushed and I'm still proud of the quality.

6. Stand up. I don't relate to comedians who feel they have to test material in front of audiences before they can craft a longer show. I've always felt that I could write a show in my head and an audience would enjoy it. I proved that to myself in February and I just did another show in December. I know that I always perform to people who already know and like me but I also feel that my best work is on its way. Those shows were still a personal triumph. Each show of support is a reason for me to keep to creating comedy.

7. MEI Spring 2007. An all-star staff. A fine crew of students. I'm glad Matt was there because it was nice to go to the same places with someone who was new and appreciative. I felt like this was my victory lap around Europe. Late one night Lauren, Matt, and I snuck down to the beach. The air was cool and we were draped in hotel blankets. Lauren memorably claimed we were three wizards. That memory is a gateway to a thousand fond memories from that trip. Matt playing guitar. Playing frisbee in the rain. Playing ping pong during an ISU (each student does two "ISU"s. They are essentially extensive interviews with a teacher).

8. Building a steadicam. Classic engineer Dad and brother to the rescue. A quality homemade product with respects to the DIY strand of the internet.

9. I'm not sure if my memories are from this year or somewhere within the last three years. I'm thinking of things like stenciling t-shirts, the Vipassana retreat, celebrating car-theft day, first book club meeting, having Luis and Liz construct a movie set for me from stuff around the house, and I'm just trying to settle on some memory that is older than December but still in 2007... Well, this one was quite recent but I have fond memories of my brother, Andrew (who has now started a blog), deciding that we should roll the largest snowball. It had just snowed and the texture was what we call quality packing snow. So we rolled a ball that we could barely push. Then in one tremendous heave it split in two. I fell over the first chunk and was uppercutted by the second. Fantastic.

10. Today my brother is having a birthday party. I'm reminded of his last party back when I was testing a board game I invented. Only to find out that someone else had invented it before me. They had a better scoring system whereas I had better questions. I should get back on the making a game train.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Crying My Eyes Out

Today we shot a scene for our short film. M@ had to cry in the scene and, even though I was behind the camera, I thought it would be a neat idea to see if I could cry. I don't think I could weep through acting. By that I mean pretending to be someone else. As a sidenote I understand why actors prefer to say "becoming" or "portraying" rather than "pretending". Even thought it accurately describes what they do, it puts them in a mindset that makes it difficult to continue. It's the same for the military. Every soldier is part of a defense force, not an offensive, killing one.

Anywho, my secret to crying, and I turned out to be quite adept, was to picture delivering eulogies for my loved ones. I'm an extrovert in my family and have been called upon to deliver eulogies for grandparents. It's difficult but I was also called upon to be MC at my sister's wedding and that was sweet. I hope to become a quality eulogizer. It seems like an important skill but we never even mentioned it in twenty-plus years of school. I know it seems like a morbid assignment but I'd rather have a culture of brave acceptance than fumbling final speeches. Additionally, we should celebrate the Day of the Dead.

My memory is probably exaggerating (like when we think the movies of our childhood were quality) but I seem to remember a touching and funny eulogy delivered in the film Mr. Saturday Night by Billy Crystal. I hope to some day get there.

Back to tears. I have a vivid storyteller's imagination and I can quickly picture tear-jerking scenes. Like my mom crying in a peculiar new way. Or, a week after the funeral, me yelling at a friend and then, realizing I'm lashing out from my own depression, saying "I just want him to be back". It was thoughts of losing my youngest brother or my dad that proved most effective today. I imagined my Dad was hit by a car on the highway -while trying to help someone in the snow change a tire. He's a really helpful guy, see how that adds to the tragedy? I know, I'm a sadness genius. You should have seen me weep. What a fine species we humans be.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Best at Sex

Great Great Grand, this is what sex is like in my time.

Growing up the topic of sex is never overtly mentioned but it permeates many aspects of our culture. The media (particularly television and films) provides a general image of sex as a white male lying on top of a white female as she moans. They are naked and sweaty but often semi-covered by bedsheets -we never see their genitals. This is because that would change the rating that a Decency Board (through a secret but generally accepted process) assigns to each piece of fiction. In reality the term 'making out' was often used in my childhood. Making out includes activities such as extended kissing, touching 'forbidden' body parts (men have one -the penis, women have two areas, their vaginas and their breasts), and kissing said body parts. There are many euphemisms for sexual intercourse, the most popular is saying "I slept with him/her". This makes it impossible to simply state that you have slept with someone and not had sex with them.

My mind was thinking about this topic because Feministing.com is asking for submissions for their anthology on rape culture. In my opinion, we don't have a very positive sex culture particularly because so many things are left unspoken. We have laws against sexual harassment (using sex to make someone uncomfortable, from touching to insults) but most of my friends have experienced some form of it without any action being taken. Most of these incidents are caused by males taking an aggressive approach to sex and many others turning a blind eye because it is considered common, expected, and unpreventable. Example: a male friend jokingly tells a female colleague to "suck his dick" even when she is made uncomfortable by the joke. "Suck my dick" is a violent demand for fellatio used a) as an insult and b) to be sexually suggestive. It is occasionally used in rap music but, more importantly, reinforced by eager listeners who alleviate themselves of guilt by quoting a song. I say guilt because it is very widely known that these instances of sexual harassment are "wrong" but they are very rarely confronted. This gives a good indication where we're at.

How does your Great Great Grand fit into all of this? Well I had a very sheltered childhood. My parents have still never spoken to me about sex. Through school I was given some very straightforward explanations of what sex and puberty were. I applaud these sessions. There was one in grade six that I particularly recall. There was so much for me to learn that I don't remember really understanding intercourse at the time. I could not relate to any sexual issue that was explored through mainstream media. I thought that elementary school relationships were made up for television. Additionally, years of recycled storylines have created a large expectation about people having sex on their prom night (a senior high school celebration where we act like wealthy people. We rented a limo (a car that is fancy because it is long), dressed nicely, ate a meal, and danced). You should know, my Great Great Grand, how silly I feel describing these things so matter-of-factly. Our "prom" was not called prom. It was called "formal". I never worried about having sex at it.

There's so many other stories I'm sure you're interested in. Even if the future is a dismal, highly censored, oppressively moral world, I'm sure you are interested in your GrGrGr's sex stories. How did I "discover" masturbation? When and how did I have sex? How was it that I became the best at it? These are great questions.

I'll cut the shit. I'm sure you only really care about is how to be the best at it. There are a couple of tricks that have made me impressed with myself. Don't worry, I haven't always been the best so there's hope for you.

1. Balance.
Enjoy the sexual gratification of your partner. This is such a key secret. If you're selfish in bed you're f*cked and not in a good way. Don't play the martyr either, keep that sh*t balanced. I'm shooting for a one-to-one ratio in orgasms. Some people argue that male and female orgasms shouldn't be treated as equivalent. It's widely accepted that men reach orgasm much easier than women. In my experience, this is true, men are usually holding back from ejaculating to prolong sex and women are building to orgasm. But it's not that f*cking difficult.
2. Communication.
Talk about what feels good. Only be in sexual relationships with someone who wants to make you comfortable. Then you can be holy shit honest. You should shock yourself with how forthcoming you are about your sexual thoughts, desires, opinions. And you should keep asking your partner to explain more of their own sexmind to you. If you can speak openly and honestly then you have surpassed sex and become as god.
3. Perspective.
Sex is no big deal (Except having a baby; that will change your life so safesex that sh*t). We're robots with buttons. Press and lick them in the right sequence and we spasm and juice. Keep it all in perspective: maybe the person you're with is not up for having an orgasm that session, bottom line: are you both having a good time? Yeah, well what was gooooood? Have you planned any legendary encounters? You may notice that there aren't any physical tricks here about what direction to rotate your tongue. Don't get attached to them; understand and adapt to the partner at hand.

Also, if you want your partner to do something then bare minimum you should be comfortable having it done to you. Bare minimum. My GrGrGr, in my time there are three taboo but popularly known sexual practices that come to my mind: anal sex, swallowing sperm, and having sperm on your face or body. I am responding to many of the heterosexual men that I have met in my life. I am often disappointed by the amount of males that I have known who are turned on by these things but would never consider having them done to themselves. Actually, they would consider it degrading and use the imagery as insults. In that fact is everything you need to know about the state of sex in my world.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Forced Thinking

I put a great deal of energy and focus into jobs that I am assigned to do. I love exceeding expectations. But I worry that I am more obedient to external deadlines than to my own. One of the skills that I have is knowing how to finish my work. Even in school when I didn't want to do the work as the deadline approached something took over within me and I always completed my assignments on time. I wish I could live with that urgency every day.

These are the things I wish upon my mind each morning:
What have you made?
Live up to your talent, asshat.
Tell them now.

I was thinking about being on a plane that was about to crash and everyone trying to have a rushed and poorly organized orgy. We are on a plane, it just takes about eighty years to crash.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Catch 23 Tonight

Tonight (Monday December 3rd) at Clinton's (doors open at 8:30... if you pay them $5) I'll be performing at Catch 23 with Alex Tindal. I am excited.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Highlight Reel

Here's a highlight from my life. While pacing outside before an improv show began I was approached by a young stranger.

"Hey! I know you from YouTube. (that, in itself was great but then:) You taught me how to stencil a shirt. (I made a "Stencil Your Own Shirt" video tutorial a while ago. Then it got better because they pulled up their sweater and said). Here it is!"

They were wearing a shirt with the silhouette of a whale tail and an old man's head. "See? It's Jonah and the whale!"

That was satisfying. As a side note I performed with them that night as part of a show that makes improvisers who don't know each other take the stage as a team. Well, here's the video:

I was never happy how I accidentally used the wrong caption box when holding the ink but those are the kind of rough edges that seemed appropriate for YouTube.

My Great Great Grand, since I was taught how to stencil clothing I have an even greater disdain for the majority of mainstream fashion. In our time, and this may sound silly to you, people wear clothing that displays the name of the manufacturer. I'm not sure of the strength of consumerism in your world (by consumerism I mean defining yourself by the many things available for you to buy). In my day, there is a real uneasiness in the air. Everyone buys things to feel like an individual, products are advertised as heightening our individualism, but the joke of it all is: we all generally look the same.

When I was young I had this revelation from observing a company called Nike that sold shoes. They began to put their company's logo, a checkmark, on hats. And I was amused and amazed that people were paying Nike to buy a hat and walk around advertising for them. I'm not sure if it was new in history at that point but this method has risen (at least in media attention) and been labeled: branding. To my knowledge the previous use of the word brand or branding was reserved for ranchers who owned cattle. They would heat a metal label and burn it into the flesh of their herd in order to claim ownership. Sometimes it is difficult to satirize reality (I learned that when the US military labeled the mission to bomb Afghanistan as "Infinite Justice").

Part of me feels as if I'm breaking away from having the fashion sense of a billboard but I am acutely aware that no one is outside of this box. I have a very practical aesthetic but I rarely stop to think if I'm wearing the best clothes (for me, the most useful). More pockets mayhaps. A shoulder strap with pockets. I don't think we have the optimum design. I feel some stand up comedy coming on: we have a zipper near our genitals. That's the best we could do? Metal teeth near our most sensitive-

At the very least stencils allow me to represent things that I am interested in and hopefully my clothing will be a brief history of myself than of my generation's commercials.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wikipedia

I cannot relate to people who hate on Wikipedia.org because it is "unreliable". It remains an amazing source for a straightforward introduction -particularly to the history of Western Civilization. I use this as an example because I teach history and philosophy to high school students and I know my sh*t. What do you want? Nietzsche? Robespierre? Thucydides? Quality articles. The maps (particularly for ancient battles) trump any book, article or Discovery Channel special I've studied.

Sure there are a lot of examples of incomplete articles and misinformation but it's a living text that is constantly improving. Track a sh*tty article and watch it improve. Or fix it yourself, asshole. For f*ck's sake. Fact is, you can't name a shortcoming of Wikipedia's information that doesn't exist in published sources. Perhaps you feel your printed text is reliable because you found it on a shelf but compare it to a book written on the same topic ten years in either direction and pretty soon your fetish, the smooth, inky pages you were getting off on becomes a sh*t sandwich. How do you feel about your books now that I've called them sh*t sandwiches? How about that you finite motherf*cker?

Perhaps I'm just reading the wrong books. Right? Well, I don't know the Book of Objective Truth that you're reading. Perhaps because it only exists up your ass where your head is. I preach 'watch out for Wiki-grafitti' too. Because you should always have cross-references if you want to understand something. Stop criticizing Wikipedia because you believe in the myth of a definitive source. One of the best features of Wikipedia is that they talk about their shortcomings. I've never read a high school textbook that criticizes its own approach.

So, smallballs, what's the f*cking issue? You've got a million stories about how Wikipedia made you cry because you tried to look smart and quoted some sh*t you read in passing? Got a bad mark because you cut and pasted? Little-baby-you just wanted to read something without engaging your critical mind? Bring your horror stories, junior -I will go to war with you on this.

Back to smiles and sunshine.

I've always wanted a feature on my blog that would display my last wikipedia searches. I am much too inexperienced a programmer to design this (furthermore, Mozilla's Firefox's history data is saved in an unfriendly file format known as Mork, or, as it is known by many programmers, bullsh*t).

Good ol' copy and paste. Here's an alphabetical list of the Wikipedia searches in my history. I've wanted to do this at least once so here's an alphabetical list. I have highlighted five articles that I remember fondly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%9C
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4chan
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Short_History_of_Progress
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_McCusker
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academy_Award_for_Live_Action_Short_Film
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AdSense
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeronautics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Davies http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Baba
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BAE_Harrier_II
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Bonds
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beowulf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beowulf_%282007_film%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BoA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Sabres
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cache
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:LGBT_people_from_England
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Manson
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chloroform
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloverfield
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Place
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Kopay
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deconstruction
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defenestration http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defenestrations_of_Prague
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demo_scene
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demoscene.tv http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogme_95
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominique_Swain
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragonfly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVD_region_code
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dylan_Moran
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian_pyramids
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esera_Tuaolo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exif
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-35_Lightning_II
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurama
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garth_Marenghi%27s_Netherhead
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_is_dead
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Answers
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Googleplex
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.264
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hak.5
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_%28series%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_3
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_McCusker
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrier
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helter_Skelter_%28book%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_psychology
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_Fuzz
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Love_Bees
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imhotep
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Informed_consent
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPCC_Fourth_Assessment_Report
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iris_%28game%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_All_About_Love
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%27Attendrai_Le_Suivant
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Handy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Johnson_%28boxer%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Derrida
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamie_Zawinski
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Ross
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Amaechi
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Connor
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_McCusker
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ratzenberger
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jokela_school_shooting
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Burns
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kidney_stone
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kill_Bill
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_hospital
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knife_in_the_Water_%28film%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristeva
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristian_Levring
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuato
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lakshmi
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lars_von_Trier
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavalier_microphone
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leno_LaBianca
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_My_Life
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolita
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Look_Around_You
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorenzo_de'_Medici
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_Effect
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massey_Lectures
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Holness
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Jordan
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_McCusker
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microphone
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miranda_July
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkeybone
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mork
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mork_%28file_format%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Name_of_the_rose
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_debt
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Hundred_Years_of_Solitude
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Water
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Water_2
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Password
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pazzi_Conspiracy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perrier_Award
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perrier_Comedy_Award
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_global_warming
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positivism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primo_Levi
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QI
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qi
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen's_Park,_Toronto
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Carver
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reporters_Without_Borders
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Ayoade
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Christy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Polanski
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Hughes
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rough_Draft_Studios
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Simmons
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Run%2C_Fat_Boy%2C_Run
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%B8ren_Kragh-Jacobsen
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandra_Bernhard
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Silverman
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scaled_Composites_White_Knight
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheduling
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Pilgrim
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screensaver
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_killer
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_Chancellor_of_the_Exchequer
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shotgun_mic
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silverman
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Pegg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skullmonkeys
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_positivism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceShipOne
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spencer_Fisher
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Autumn_of_the_Patriarch
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_One_Thousand_and_One_Nights
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Celebration
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kingdom_%28television%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Maxx
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mighty_Boosh
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Neverhood
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Planets
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tell-Tale_Heart
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tenant
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Vinterberg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thucydides
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Clancy's_Rainbow_Six:_Vegas
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tutankhamun
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tutankhamun#2007_discoveries_in_Tutankhamun.27s_tomb
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unforgivable_Blackness:_The_Rise_and_Fall_of_Jack_Johnson
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unreal_Tournament_3
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_de_Graaff_generator
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_de_graff
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Machine
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_You_Please_Be_Quiet%2C_Please%3F
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Harvey
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writers_Guild_of_America
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writers_Guild_of_America%2C_west
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writers_Guild_of_America%2C_west#2007_Strike
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XO-1_%28laptop%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahoo%21_Pipes
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_and_yang
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yotsuba_Koiwai

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cloc-cloc-cloc

The most memorable onomatopoeia I have read is from Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. As a child, Rebeca carries her deceased parents' bones around with her in a bag that makes the sound cloc-cloc-cloc.

Stand Up or Sit Down

I was booked to perform stand up comedy for a fundrasier next week. Now it has been revealed to me that it is, in fact, tomorrow. The best part is that the event is organized by my improv coach from way back in high school. In aeronautics, his enthusiasm is a dragonfly and his organizational skills are the Hindenburg.

But metaphors-that-involve-tragic-disasters aside, I started to panic. I was secretly hoping he would excuse me from doing the show. Then I asked myself: is this really a big deal? I have about two days to prep, what, fifteen minutes of stand up? So now I'm sitting here and joking with myself. It's too rainy to complete my material generating ritual (I usually walk around the block and mutter to myself).

Worst case scenario I can include some old material. That's a personal problem for me since I like to do new material every time. But, then again, I'll be performing in Erin, Ontario and it'll be new for them...

Topics that may make the cut:
-waiting to turn left
-how when girls "play" they imagine reconstructing boring ol' reality (lets play school! lets play office, I'm waiting for my email to download! Yay!)
-witch burning
and perchance some older material
-basketball show offs
-shark attack
topics that are working their way from the minors
-watching witch burning
-don't talk while the tv is talking to us

Look at all that crap. Took me five minutes. I'm fine. I'm golden fine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Great Drink Tasting

This was a great Sunday idea: we bought about twenty beverages that we had never tasted. Most of them came from the Pan Asian Trading grocery store because we couldn't read the labels. The occasional English informed us we had bought things like "Nostalgia Drink", "Mangosteen", "Grass Jelly" and "Sac Sac Grape". Then we organized an event. Some friends provided the guest judges for our tasting event.

The winner: A surprising victory. The mystery bottle, the only one without a single word of English. It turned out to be an Apple Juice with a polite hint of sour. We enjoyed.

The loser: A disgrace to the liquid community. Hawton San Cha was unanimously declared the aggressor responsible for World War I. It received everyone's lowest rating, including the distinction of the only non-numerical score with a "f*ck hawton".

Memorable Quotes from the Event:
"Brio is like that commercial where they squeeze cigarettes into a glass."
"Oh shiiiiiiiiiit!" (excited smelling mangosteen) "This is almost an elixir."
"This drink (Grass Jelly) sounds like a low level RPG villain - grass jelly nears."
"Drinks should not have chunks."
"No no no." (upon drinking hawton)
"If that (Hawton) had chunks it would have been below five."
"I'd like to point out that the front says grape and 20 percent sac."
"The way it came out of the can was like watching birth happen."
"Why does it go reight up the nose like that?"
"It (tizer) tastes like old."

Our Judges and their Biases:


Andrew
Average score: 65
Personal favourite: Root Beer Float (rating: 96)
Matt
Average score: 56.722
Personal favourite: Barely Sweetie Cranberry (rating: 100)
Mina
Average score: 62.5
Personal favourite: Orangeina (rating: 100)
Peter
Average score: 61
Personal favourite: Brio (rating: 100)
Stef
Average score: 64.167
Personal favourite: Beet Apple Carrot Ginger (homemade) (rating: 95)
Shauna
Average score: 61
Personal favourite: Crush's Cream Soda (rating: 100)We plan to hold a Never Seen Before Fruits and Vegetables Tasting as well.

Advice if you're organizing this event:
-Eight people would be optimum. We had six people and Shauna had to leave for work. A can of mystery liquid can be split eight ways. Except Hawton. It should be thrown out.
-We took turns choosing the next drink. That was good.
-We had crackers to cleanse our palates. No one really ate the crackers except for me. I think I downed almost two sleeves of Premium Plus. I have a problem.
-I had my laptop to record each round's ratings. I would have loved to be able to project it on the wall, or do something so everyone could see. Reasonably, people wanted to know their past scores so they could rank the drinks properly.
-Leftover liquid was poured into a central glass. We did not force anyone to drink the Swill Center but it would have been a good way to make a twoonie.
-the whole thing took about two hours. We rushed the end to get out of Andrew's house. He too had to work. I forgot to share the box of chocolate bars I had brought for the ending. I recommend doing this because greed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Next Project

When Matt told me that he's not afraid of death I told him that I would think of something, some perspective, some image, that would shake him. Now I know these thoughts will lead to another movie because I had the vision of the opening scene.

I'm about to buy some equipment to make my feature film. I'm debating between buying multiple high end consumer camcorders or a single pro (or 'prosumer') dv camera. Of course, I'll also be sinking plenty of money into audio equipment. I hope watching the Festen, the first film in the amazing Dogme95 movement, will inform my decision.

Dear Great Great Grand, as I embark upon these projects I am struck by the amount of media that my culture produces. There are so many movies made. A full layer of distributed films but also multiple layers of direct-to-video, festival, and failed projects. The sheer volume makes me want to do something different and special, it has never intimidated me to stop. Instead, watching movies, like watching other stand up comics before I write comedy, makes me feel more confident in my abilities to create something better.

As I drag my feet while writing my book I have already been working on a short film to shoot as a test run for my new equipment. And since my brother mentioned the quality of the Hak5 IPTV show I know I need to shoot my own show soon.

Somehow, I've also found time to make lolcats using icanhascheezburger.com's easy to use lolcat builder. It's a lot of fun to create one, send it to them and your friends, and hope to be voted onto the homepage. Thousands of users trying to create the ultimate cat captions. Basically, all of the captions are misspelled in a particular manner that has come to represent the cat's voice. Sgreat! Though in my case, two of my choices aren't cats...
On the same site there is a great article about leetspeak and lolcat lingo. I love that silliness can be analyzed. It is really interesting how language develops, through pictures, misspellings, and wit, in online forums.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Get Scared of the Internet

Encyclopedia Dramatica is an online collection of memes, mostly misinformation rejected by Wikipedia. It's written in memespeak (a cebration of missperlings and 'ctach phrases' cauzed by typos) and can only be understood by familiarity with inside jokes wrapped in inside jokes. For that, it is an amazing world. What unsettles me is that the tone of the site is ruthless. Nothing is sacred. Notably recent rape cases and teenage suicides are insulted as soon as they happen, all under a weak defense of 'satire'. It's all done "for the lulz".

"For the lulz" is an expression that roughly translates to "hurting someone else for one's amusement". People will think of mean, and even clever, things to do to reach out and insult those who have a strong emotional connection to something (could be a character in Star Wars, could be a family member who died). Sometimes it's simply the use of a shocking image and insensitive subtitle.

This is what scares me about internet communication:

Anonymity
If only they would conform to the crowd. Most people would dare not speak aloud what they post. I'm as for individualism as any grade ten reading Orwell's 1984 but can ostracizing be a positive force? I hate when things make me desire censorship. Hate it enough to start using speeches to incite people to rage and violence. Oops.

Human Nature
Dunbar's number is a claim that humans can only really feel connected to about 150 people. Everyone else we can't get that worked up over. Won't cry if they die. Won't take a risk to defend. Does the internet show us (each time a random user makes a comment, like on YouTube) that most people are full of anger and are more than willing to take it out on strangers? Or maybe just that a minority of internet users are full of anger...

Echoes
Some of the less friendly internet memes have a tendency to blow up small personal things until they're all over the web. From photos to chat histories, we're leaving a digital trail that can be replicated and ridiculed for the rest of our lives. And no one can delete them. Well until the great internet fire where we'll have to start over.

Gawking
Disturbing things are the events to our routines. It's not to slow the car down to look at the accident/insult.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Paintballed

Does anyone where a cup to protect their genitals? I wear a cup when I play hockey and people aren't even trying to hit my with the projectile. I was very nervous to play Paintball but it was going to be at a reunion for a high school that I worked for, so I trusted the crowd.

There's no way to tell who is on what team particularly because I was one of sixty armed amateurs. It's dark, your goggles fog from your panicky breath, and the identifying armbands declaring who-is-on-what-team are as effective as wearing tiny chameleons. Everyone was wearing the provided dark coveralls and black protective mask -except for my brother who was wearing the coveralls, the mask, and a suit jacket. He looked amazing and secured his status as a legend when, in round two, he found the best hiding spot behind enemy lines and proceeded to eliminate half of their confused team single-handedly.

It hurts to get hit by a paintball but it needs to. I was so hopped up on adrenaline that I wouldn't notice anything less than a sharp whack. Only three hours after playing did I realize how fatigued I was, how my joints ached from throwing my body around, and how my wounds were bruises.

We played four rounds. The first two were basic go-shoot-the-other-team and during the last two one team was assigned to defend a "building" (basically a two-story facade. The structure was long but only about one and a half meters deep) while the other team tried to attack it.

Round 1 - The game began so suddenly. I was surprised how terrible the visibility was. Shots were being fired around me and could see nothing. I was firing at any movement. I stumbled upon someone and I was shot in the fat under my left arm as I shot them in the shoulder. It has left a nice bruise that has lasted for three days. It hurts to press but not to brush on things.

Round 2 - I wasn't shot. I was pinned down a lot of the time and watched as paintballs exploded against the wall behind me. I could feel how tense my body was becoming and had to consciously make a decision to relax. Thankfully, from my position I had an excellent view to watch my brother become a god. After this round everyone on the opposing team was talking about "needing to get the suit jacket guy".

Round 3 - I was shot in the knee as I ran for cover to advance on the building that the other team was defending. It didn't really hurt or bruise. My brother had paint all over his crotch. He was shot in the groin and had to sit down because of the pain. I was shocked how dangerously close it was to his Carl Sagans. He informed me in would have been better if he was shot in the gennies so we would know what it would be like. For science.

Round 4 - My goal for this round was to get shot in the face. I saw other people who had paint on their masks and it looked fun. But I lasted too long. I was one of the last people left trying to defend our building. It was amazing. We were trapped on the second floor as they flooded in. I had no idea what I was shooting at, I fired at any foggy blob that moved. After a long, fun, tense shootout I was hit in the wrist. It didn't bruise. Once outside, I saw my brother who showed me his mask. He had been shot in the face. Lucky guy.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thucydides

"The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools."

This is one of the most haunting quotes that I have read. It visits me now and again when I think about war and pacifism. For Thucydides (460 - 395 BC), it was completely transparent that the wealth and power of the Athenian Empire relied on its military supremacy to violently crush dissent. Athens dominated their smaller allies, spent the funds of the Delian League any way they chose, and considered themselves the moral and political leaders of the Peloponnese. When a city-state protested they were attacked. Thus, an educated Athenian citizen must experience combat to understand how terrible it is yet how necessary to maintain their way of life. Has anything changed? Is this true in the first place?

A pacifist is completely illogical. Wanting peace is self-destructive. Their freedom is founded on the slavery of others. That's the terrifying question: is the freedom of a democratic state tied to violence abroad? The center of an Empire feeds off of the periphery and must often send out its military to stamp out the rebellious fringes.
Democracies are only peaceful if they're economically satisfied. But as soon as a state attempts to end unequal trade relations -invasion time.

A Rare Imagination

As I'm writing my book I love how many amazing ideas I come up with. Seriously, I'm bottomless. Once I thought I was more creative in my youth then I realized my best work is yet to come. This book that I'm writing is saturated in fascinating ideas. Wow. Why do I feel so original and important? Where does this confidence come from? I hope you inherited it, my dear Great Great Grand, I couldn't imagine living any other way.

It's hilarious to me that, logically, my imagination is one of the most commonly represented. You see, back in my time, the white middle-aged male demographic owned a lot of our culture's industrial storytelling output (movies and books). Though I am aware of this somehow it doesn't make me feel less capable or special. I see my life as a typical story of white male privilege yet I consider myself outside of demographics. It's as absurd as people buying the same clothing to feel like individuals but it works. It would be more logical for me to assume that I could not think anything interesting or new and that the only people who can are rarely represented minority artists. Thankfully, reality is seldom logical.

In stark contrast, I find that I'm often trying to encourage others to embark on creative projects. Particularly my female friends who have feelings of inferiority that are beyond me. I can rarely relate to homesickness, stage fright, or the idea that I don't have the right to write.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Strong Women

I'm not entirely comfortable with the way Quentin Tarantino constructs female action heroes. Uma Thurman in a Bruce-Lee-style yellow jumpsuit always struck me as his sexual fetish than a cool character. It's obvious that female action heroes (The Bride - Kill Bill, Lara Croft - Tomb Raider) aren't presented in the same way as male action heroes (John McClane - Die Hard, ). The creativity in films is dominated by male writers, directors, and producers and female action heroes are deliberately presented as provocative sexual objects with hints of frailty whereas male bodies are presented as tough and resilient with hints of invincibility. I'm thinking of how John McClane from Die Hard always gets back up.

Recently I was watching the film Lady Vengeance directed by Chan-wook Park. At one point in the film the main character, Geum-ja Lee, is attacked by a man who is trying to kidnap her. It's a creepy scene shot on a rainy night on a lone street. He covers her mouth with a cloth (presumably covered in movie knockout liquid). She struggles quite fiercely -he tries to shove her in the car but she keeps kicking the door shut with her foot -eventually she passes out. Then she bites him, she was faking it! Now he's pissed and he throws her against the car. It's really violent. He punches and kicks the crap out of her. The thug turns to his thug friend who was busy kidnapping her daughter. Suddenly she appears behind him with her gun drawn and kills them both. No sexy posing.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Loose Dog

We watched a dog almost get hit by a car on Harbord Street. Somehow it made it to the other side of the road. We followed it and tried to read its tag but it ran from us, going south on Manning where we watched as it was almost hit by another car. That's two near-misses in as many minutes. Before this story is over we will have watched the dog get hit by a car.

A white dog with brown spots. Medium size with a red collar and shiny tag. Floppy ears. Nervous, non-threatening (though it growled at us on one approach). So what do you do when you see an animal in danger? Ever since I placidly watched a turtle get crushed by an SUV (complete with driver on cell phone) I decided I would always do my best to intervene.

Now it's hiding in the bushes of someone's front lawn and we're trying to befriend it using leftover yam rolls from Buddhas Vegetarian. We have better luck with pepperoni sticks from the corner store. The dog bolts again; this time into a backyard. It has cornered itself. There's no one at the house so we ask the people next door to Google what to do about a loose dog in Toronto. They give me the number for the Humane Society. It's 8:30pm on Saturday, they're closed but they have an emergency number for Animal Services. I call them. Unless the animal is injured or injuring us there's nothing they can do (*note: running recklessly across roads does not constitute a "public nuisance"). We call the police and press zero for other inquiries and police advice. There's nothing that can be done for a loose dog in this city.

Looks like we're in this for the long haul. With the help of more pepperoni sticks the dog becomes more comfortable. I propose its name is Millie but it doesn't agree. Calling out 'Darth Vader' gets a longer gaze. The neighbours on the other side appear. A husband and wife who jumped right out of Eastern Ontario, where people are better. They have a leash, a bowl of water, and dogfood. Slowly the dog is beginning to trust me. It eats pepperoni out of my hand but it won't let me touch it. That's okay, it has calmed down a lot, it's only a matter of t-

Then it bolts.

My partner in Dog Whispering slams the gate and the dog crashes into it. Now it's surrounded and panicking. My friend opens the gate -thinking he had shut it on the dog. It escapes. Now it's running north on Manning and trying to cross Harbord again. We follow. This time on Harbord Street the dog is not so lucky -the car connects and sends it down the road. The car drives away. Miraculously, the dog gets up and runs away. Sprints. At top speed. We're running after it still carrying the bowl with dogfood. I expect it to drop and die. It stops on a school lawn and I approach. It looks like the end of the-

It runs again, heading east, and then north, and then east. We are well behind. Last witness we saw it running east on Herrick close to Bathurst. We did a thorough search of the area and went home. Now that we know it's injured we don't know where Animal Services could find it. I suspect it's hidden on someone's lawn. In the bushes, healing or dying. Either way that dog is a long way from home.

We return the dogfood bowl. The husband tells us we're good people. We know that. We spent two hours trying to befriend a lost dog. We're the best of people. "You did your best" is for house league, there's less at stake. Good intentions a happy ending does not make. Part of me wished I had attacked the dog, grabbed it by the neck and tied it to a post.This person's picture of a "Britney Spaniel" reminds me of the dog. It's not quite a match. The dog we saw had floppier ears, more brown spots, a red collar, and looked more terrified of everything.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Intelligence, Knowledge, Wisdom

What are my smarts? As a teacher I encouraged my students to plot themselves on this triangle in order to visualize their intellectual strengths and weaknesses. I've plotted myself on this triangle. I offer these definitions:

Intelligence - Problem solving ability. Particularly for new problems -intelligent people are difficult to overwhelm.
Knowleldge - Information. Memorization of facts and the ability to call upon them at appropriate times and express them in articulate ways.
Wisdom - Experience. An understanding gained through exposure and routine. I forget that we are always practicing some skill.

My own rating.
I have plotted myself relatively far away from wisdom and a little closer to knowledge than intelligence.
Intelligence
I know some exceptional problem solvers (my father and youngest brother) and I'm within their shadow. But I certainly have been known to shine with my own solutions. I like to reset my mind and come at the problem in a simpler frame of mind.
Knowledge
I consider myself knowledgeable because other people tell me that I am. It probably dates back to memorizing answers for Trivial Pursuit the Millennium Edition (I found them so interesting, I kept researching them: olestra, the Iran-Contra scandal, geothermal energy, there's so much to know!). I realized that I only consider 'knowing' something if I can explain it to someone else. As a teacher I developed an above average grasp of Western history and philosophy which I am more than eager to share. This enthusiasm often translates as intimidation.
Wisdom
I have led students through Europe, been performing onstage since high school, and I consider myself an insightful judge of character. Yet, I don't see myself as very 'street smart'. I feel that disappointment that my textbook knowledge won't fix an engine.

I feel comfortable where I am. Part of me feels that wisdom is capitulation. I criticize so many things in this world that I don't want to catch myself practicing them. Another explanation for my positioning is that having a lot of historical knowledge makes my life experience seem paltry.

Furthermore
It's quite obvious to me that I have been influenced by Scott McCloud's wonderful perspective on art. In Understanding Comics, he pointed out that anything illustrated can be placed within a triangle that offers reality, iconic, and abstract as the corners.

Cameroon... Yaounde

When I was attending York University I was a commuter. On these fifty minute trips I grew tired of the radio. So I recorded the voices at the merriam-webster dictionary saying all of the countries and capitals of Africa (they have a feature where you can listen to the word that you looked up so you can pronounce it correctly). I made a tape of every African country being read, followed by a pause, and then its capital city. That's how I learned all of the countries and capitals of Africa. Somalia... Mogadishu.

Some years later I set out to record all of the countries and capitals of the world with my friends. We made a series of recordings. First we recorded all of the countries and capitals by region. Then, for more advanced practice, we read off the capital cities in alphabetical order so the listener would have to guess the country. Indonesia... Jakarta.

Recently, I rediscovered the mp3 files. It's a good resource and I like it. But it pales in comparison to the geography games offered on the Sheppard Software site. Chile... Santiago.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Furthest Fall: Candidate 2: Pu-Yi

Pu Yi (b. 1906) becomes the child Emperor of China at the age of two. He is the Last Emperor.

The Japanese back the Emperor in struggles with the Republic. Soviet forces capture him and the Communist Revolution in China occurs. The Emperor is turned over to Mao and the gang.

He spends ten years being 're-educated' and is released to be a gardener in the Beijing Botanical Gardens. He dies in 1966, a citizen.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Required Readings

On my last teaching trip we had the students write "Five Things to Know About Me" assignments. They were meant to mimic the style of readings that we provided about philosophers.

For instance, Five Things to Know About Karl Marx included his idea of the inevitable proletariat revolution, his materialistic understanding of history, Hegel's influence on his work, etc. They were short readings designed to give a straightforward introduction to their ideas and provide some basic context for their lives.

So the students were assigned to record their own philosophical conclusions and historical context. At the very least it's fun to write about yourself in third person. Additionally, we asked the students to make a list of "required readings". These are essentially a list of favourites that allow for further insight into their development. It doubled quite nicely as a list of recommendations.

I completed the assignment first, as an exemplar for the students. Now, with the help of my brother I was able to add an extensive list of my "required readings" in the sidebar. It's quite a neat tree menu provided by code he found at Yahoo's User Interface (YUI) Library. At the very least it's nice to point someone to the menu wants me to recommend something to them. I look forward to reviewing each one.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Magical Realism

I'm finally reading The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It was recommended to me from 'a reliable' years ago. I suspect I'll be doing my best to pass it on. The author's style is labeled 'magical realism' because fantastic things happen and are treated as ordinary. Such as the central character's impossibly long lifespan (he is the dictator of an unnamed Caribbean nation and his long life is a neat metaphor for tyrants on many levels; he is omnipresent, his power comes from his legend, no one can remember the nation without him, he will not die or fade away into history, and I'm sure there are many other parallels for students to write essays on). I'm surprised all of his work isn't being made into films.

I'm not a Garcia Marquez fan but I've always liked his nonfiction book, News of a Kidnapping, and found that it gave me some insight into how the real Colombia could inspire such surreal writing.

Reading his book often makes me think of my own life as an inescapable (albeit fun) cycle of recurring situations (since he loves to deal in stories that cross generations but carry the same themes). I would consider the Garcia Marquezesque themes of my life to be (I can think of at least three important examples for each):

-I fall in love with two people at once
-My family bails me out
-Having a lot of creative control in my work and allowing others to make my choices in my real life
-Being a surprisingly good judge of character
-Learning through teaching

What are the themes in your life?

Garcia Marquez also made a wonderful remark that inspired me as a writer. At seventeen he read Kafka's Metamorphisis (about an ordinary man who wakes up to find he's a giant cockroach). That book helped 'unlock' Garcia Marquez's imagination because it reminded him that fiction can be anything.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Furthest Fall: Candidate 1: Robespierre

Maximilien Robespierre, 'the Incorruptible', may be the finest name to come out of the French Revolution. He is my first candidate for History's Furthest Fall (theme music plays).

The Rise

In 1789 the French Revolution changed the political face of Europe. In France, a popular uprising, led by relatively young and wealthy professionals (lawyers like Robespierre) demanded a voice in politics. They drew support from the general discontent in the country -overtaxed peasants and dissatisfied aristocrats. They tried to compromise with their King and force him to sign a constitution to limit his powers. But King Louis the 16th dragged his feet and plotted against them.

Along came voices like Robespierre. He sat at the back of the newly formed Assembly. The King was virtually imprisoned as they debated his fate. Robespierre was to deliver some of the most fiery and uncompromising speeches.

"Louis must die, so that the country may live."
-Robespierre

The vote was taken. 361 FOR 288 AGAINST with 72 voting for a delay of the issue. This was the new democracy. They chopped off the king's head. Then his children's heads. Then his wife's (Marie Antoinette). As you can imagine this did not go over well in Europe. Every monarch was pissed and a little frightened by what had happened in France. War began.

(picture: A terrifying Antoinette costume. Too soon?)

The King was dead but you can tell by the close vote that not everyone was on board with the decision. Radicals like Robespierre feared the threat of a counterrevolution to impose a new monarch in France. The Committee for Public Safety was formed and an era of the revolution known as 'the Terror' began. Heads rolled. Robespierre rode highest on the wave. It's difficult to gauge Maximilien's actual involvement with the Committee because other politicians would heap the blame on him -after his death. Yet it's easy to see, from his fiery speeches, that he felt violence was a necessary part of the revolution.

Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country.
-Robespierre

The Fall


Perhaps the turning point was when Robespierre turned on Georges Danton for being too moderate. Danton was also an exceptional speaker who had accepted violence as part of the revolution. But then he thought it had gone too far. Robespierre's influence was tied to the power held by the Committee. He branded Danton a counterrevolutionary. Heads rolled. (picture: Gerard Depardieu as Danton. Good looks will not save you.) Eventually the Assembly, now the National Convention, tired of the violence and of Robespierre's passionate speeches. They called for his arrest but he and his closest supporters escaped. As the government forces entered the Hotel de Ville Robespierre tried to kill himself. But the bullet only destroyed his jaw. He was captured, put in jail, and guillotined the next day. They had to pull the bandages off of his face so his head would fit into the hole. Several sources say he let out a long chilling scream that was cut off by the dropping blade.

During the seizure Robespierre was shot in the jaw, probabl
y in a botched suicide, and then led to the guillotine with bandages around his head. The bandages blocked his head from fitting into the execution machine, so they were ripped off. The head went into its stock. The blade was raised for its fall. Robespierre began to scream, a terrible, unforgettable cry that was to live in nightmares until it suddenly stopped.

-Andress, David. The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France.

Maximilien Robespierre

The man who had called for the death of France's King is eventually killed by the very methods he had championed to purify the revolution.

Furthermore:
When shit went down at the Hotel de Ville on 9 Thermidor (the 9th of some French Revolution month. They were even revolutionating their calendars.) some dude claimed that he heroically shot Robespierre in the face. The painter who crafted this blasterpiece clearly liked that version.

Not pictured here: Augustin Robespierre (brother).
When Max was arrested Aug said: "I am as guilty as him; I share his virtues, I want to share his fate. I ask also to be charged" Later, he tried to escape the shootout by jumping out of the window. He broke both of his legs and they guillotined him the next morning with his brother. There's no such thing as a peaceful revolution. I've always thought that Robespierre seems less crazy when I found out what they did to him.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Haunting of Matt Lemche

I'm quite proud of this little film. I finally put it on YouTube. It had a lil' festival run in Atlanta and Brooklyn and is now at IFC.com. We shot it in two days and edited it in one. My favourite story is that the famous 'plate scene' was completely redone at about 2:30am. Matt was editing the footage and we realized that the shot wasn't quite right. So, with the help of Kostas, we filmed it, captured it, and edited it into the film mere hours before Matt boarded a plane.
The film was completed for Stacy's wonderful Balderdash Festival and it was a perfect fit (the festival is about faking authenticity).

We had ideas for ghostly special effects but we weren't particularly in love with the film idea. For me, the project finally became interesting when we realized that we would use our own paltry understanding of science to rationalize any paranormal activity that we witnessed.

It's a three part video. Here's part two. It begins with the amazing plate scene.

I Hate Musicals

"I hate musicals. They're gaudy, mired in stereotypes and they have never inspired me to think. Nor do I connect with the desire to burst into passionate dance and song. I associate that urge with repressed female high school students whose only escape from cliche is to bury themselves past it."
-younger me, journal

I wrote that a long time ago. Well before I had seen Hedwig and the Angry Inch. That film rescued the entire genre for me. I felt that the story tapered off but the performance delivered by John Cameron Mitchell was enough to draw lines on the ground. I'm on this side. Join me.

I haven't wanted to dance so badly since Billy Elliot rocked out in front of his father (he defeats him in dance to stern face combat in the first three minutes of this clip). This is a picture of Hedwig wearing the second hottest wig in the film. Can you guess the hottest?

This is the best song in Hedwig, "Wig in a Box".

Within a week I found out about a video for House on A Planet, a musical that my friend wrote. I love Archive 4x48. And the ????? in the chorus is genius. It seems like musicals have invested a lot of effort into trying to win me over. I'm quite fond of the video game sound.

197x transverses time.

I suspect musicals will be around for you too. They seem like a long lasting form of entertainment. Songs are an easily recognized departure from reality. I remember a professor of mine explaining that when we sing we can only hold the vowel sounds. For instance when singing the word "because" we elongate the "beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeecause". We can't elongate the "beccccccccccccccccccccccccccccause". Perhaps they have perfected this voice technology in your day. A funny struggle to make words sound special.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Inspiration/Arrogance

Screenplay draft finished and sent out to be judged.
I have chosen my next goal: I would like to be published by December. This means I will have to be finished writing a book in November.

Robert Heinlein is heralded as one of the top American science fiction writers. After reading some Heinlein I decided that I am much better. Thus, I am America's top science fiction writer. This often happens with me. When I write stand-up I listen to professional stand up comics and think 'wow, I am funnier' and when I watch films I conclude 'this is crap compared to what I could make'. Then I turn this arrogance into the energy to make my own stuff.

I still have a respect for the effort that goes into producing books, stand up, and movies but I almost always feel that I could have created something funnier, more interesting, and more memorable. So I read Neuromancer (William Gibson) and Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson) which are landmark novels in the Cyberpunk genre. I enjoyed Gibson's book because the depth at which the reader is plunged into the world. He certainly doesn't slow things down for exposition. I thought Snow Crash was mediocre but I connected to it because of my brother's enjoyment. Yet both books are not as good as mine.

I think the style of this piece will be a string of interesting ideas held together with a Hollywood heist movie plot. I don't really connect with the characters in sci fi (well, maybe Ender in Ender's Game because I wanted to be a precocious military prodigy). Kurt Vonnegut said something about making sure that your characters want something. -hilarious writing advice considering his characters were one dimensional vessels for his ideas. In my opinion, sci-fi is made great by it's memorable ideas. I've forgotten everything about Neuromancer except the amazing Dixie Flatline asking to be destroyed. A wonderful moment you can only find in fiction.

My story will explore identity in a world where you can routinely change your hair, clothes, skin colour, facial structure, and gender. The story follows an elite impostor (basically a thief who changes their appearance for each heist) who makes a lucrative living testing high end security systems. I've had to come up with a unisexual pronoun for my book (I'm using khee, kir, and kirs) to describe the people who change so much that their original gender is unclear.


Hope you're as excited as I am. It should be available for reading in mid-November. A realistic goal considering in the time you took reading this the extraordinarily prolific and deceased sci-fi author Isaac Asimov just wrote three books. All of them I consider to be crap.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fuck

This post is specifically for you, Great Great Grandrelative. I imagine some entries will bore you but this one is directly for your interests -which are of course, what my interest would be if I could read my Great Great Grandrelative's journal. Enjoy my assumptions.

This post is abut the word 'fuck'. I used it in my last entry. It was dramatic but I don't know if you picked up on its weight. The word fuck is a taboo; it is widely recognized in my culture as inappropriate. Even when it is used in the proper context (anger) or as a joke or for academic discussion it is still considered crass and improper. Sometimes you can discuss the word fuck by saying 'the f word' and people will accept this watering down. Simply by writing it in this entry I have ensured that responsible parents will not let their children read it.

When I was young, the word was wrapped in mystery as I'm sure it was for the majority of kids. I knew it was bad and only for use by older people and I was completely unaware of its secret, adult meeting. The word suggests sexual intercourse (as in "she fucked him") and that's what makes it such a mysterious word for children. But the word also has very strong connotations of violence and aggression. It's often used when someone is angry (as in "I fucking hate you"). In this context it does not mean sexual intercourse. However when people say "fuck you" or "go fuck yourself" it is clear to me that it makes sadly connects sexual intercourse with violence, control, and anger.

Some people write it on a shirt because they know their not supposed to. It's an easy way to offend people and it's an easy way to express anger. We all understand that the word fuck represents an extreme. Because of this it can also be used in humour because, although in appropriate, it can be used flippantly to exaggerate simple things (as in "I fucking love eating ice cream").

I have heard various theories about the etymology of the world. Some people say it is an archaic legal acronym other people say it came from medieval slang. We love our stories.

You can use the word fuck with your friends and the worst thing that would happen is that they would know you as the person who swears. But if you use it at work or with strangers you will be seen as unprofessional, impolite, and angry. Maybe you want to be seen that way.

I have met someone who used the word fuck with such habit that they became numbed to its effects. They used it to place emphasis on everything. In this context I never took offense to the word. But I felt sad that their vernacular was going to drive other people away and they wouldn't understand why. I have another friend who completely refuses to say fuck or shit, or asshole at any time. Those are other words for another time.

This fashion company prints these shirts with the word fuck misspelled. Have they violated a taboo? Some people think yes some people think no. That's what makes it popular with young people.

Reality is Not an Accident

Is it okay to use the word 'mankind' instead of 'humankind'?
Is it okay to say 'that movie was gay' instead of 'that movie was bad'?

Of course it's okay; there's no law against it. You're just a f*ck*ng *d**t.

Boldly put. Didn't mean to alienate. I've learned to approach these topics with tact. Aggression creates counterstrikes and guilt can be avoided. I often turn the debate into an intellectual exercise that I call: it's no accident.

You can say 'gay' in a hostile context all you want. So long as you admit that our culture does not look upon homosexuality favourably and that's the reason it's used as a derogative remark. A word, our reality, is no accident. And your words, however small and temporary are tiny bricks in the future. You insignificant words contribute to the milieu.

Mankind was a word used when male philosophers were literally referring to men exclusively. It's from a time when they believed that only men had the capacity to make rational insights and choices. We can pretend that it is identical to the word 'humankind' but we cannot erase its roots.

Changing words does not change minds. Scolding someone for saying 'gay' might achieve results if they love or fear you. It's much more important to understand that your words build that world that you want so think about what you say.

Every time I start a blog I write about language quite early. Reality is not an accident is my new fun way of saying language is not neutral. Different words, same old-man vision.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I Finished My Script

I applied for money from the government to make my film. The chances are slim but the process helped me articulate the goals of the project. Without the application I hardly ever think about the phrase 'the goals of the project'. I asked for sixteen thousand dollars. I want to spend the money on equipment so that I can make other films in November. When I was at the copy place (I paid ten dollars for them to print one hundred and twenty pages. Usually I print at home but not when it's in such bulk -drains too much toner.)

Do they still have copy places? I wonder what the popular medium is in your day. Today I was daydreaming that there will be a rise of speech activated software and most people will gradually lose their ability to write. We trade dependency for efficiency with machines. Automated world.

There was a lady at the copy place who was printing out her application as well. October 1st seems to be a major deadline in the government-funded arts world.

I keep remembering scenes that are missing from the script. Really intense ones. I forgot to tell you that I cried while I wrote the first draft. I like feeling intense emotions from made up things. It seems silly and appropriate. It was late, I was fatigued. I cried when I wrote Del's line: 'Tell him we knew things were going to change and we didn't know what it was going to look like. Tell him I don't hate him. Tell him I love him."

I emailed the script to about thirty people when I finished the rewrite. Names keep popping into my head of talented people I would like to be involved. Then I went out all day and was hoping to come back to a flood of emails declaring me Viceroy of her Majesty's Amazing Script. It amuses me that when I work on a project so intensely that I assume it is the center of everyone else's world as well.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

John Woo's A Better Tomorrow

A classic John Woo film. This means no one runs out of bullets unless it leads to a scene where two people are pointing guns at each other's heads. I do enjoy actor Chow Yun-Fat. He always seems at the appropriate level of intensity. I was watching this movie and wondering if my own screenplay was too long. So I took notes and concluded that the film is made up of about sixty fragments.

Whatever that means. I write by touch and feel and imagining the entire thing in my head. The final page count will be telling enough.

The conflicts in A Better Tomorrow are better than most action movies. Lots of decisions and consequences with no right answers. Characters are presented with obvious conflicts between family, friendship, and job loyalty. But the gender roles are terrible. The housewife character was atrocious. Weak and needy. None of the mobsters were female. Also this image from the opening montage almost undoes the praise I had for the film's subtleties.

Sometimes I cannot believe that this is the one world we've got.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Writing a Screenplay

I'm writing a screenplay to make in the Summer of 2008. I have wanted to write it for years. I think most people have a movie idea in their heads. That's a feature of our time: a love of celebrity status and a desire for fame through creative arts. I like to think of myself as talented but from a macro perspective I'm a sociological statistic.

The entertainment industry will be decentralized. I work with the assertion that my film will change the world in two ways. It will be a superior amateur feature film (as opposed to the alternately charming and unbearable nature of the YouTube swamp) and it will impact how people want to interact with one another.

I know, I want to read the script too. Here I am again, doing some small task and avoiding finishing the script. I really like most of it but it needs a little more cohesion to its fragmented style. Not enough of what I like in watching films. Missions and clues.

My punctuality is slipping. I'm embarrassed that I cannot adhere to my self imposed deadlines. Three of the actors that I really wanted to use were told they could see a draft weeks ago. Inexcusable. I tell other people that I'm going to create things so that I feel the social pressure to complete them. Not to impress them and disappear. It makes me angry enough to want to finish it right now.

I want to claim 2007 as the year of Prolific but it's not looking good right now. Here's how I'll measure it. These projects must be finished by December:

screenplay
documentary (Earn It) or short film (Shutout)
novella (Shift) or graphic novel (Circles and Squares)
slam poetry album
slam poetry performance
my pilot
two full length stand up shows
three youtube educational lectures

and it starts with this screenplay

...and this inspirational still from the opening sequence of Ninja Gaiden.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Sound of My Voice

Dear Great Great Grandchildren,

We never met. The Great Great Grand parents (that I never met) were probably born in the 1890s in a different world. I think the commonness of air travel would inspire the most awe. Nuclear weapons the most fear and the internet the most confusion.

What is my world like? What wacky social taboos do we adhere to? What blindspots does hindsight make clear? How has my generation constructed it's own version of hell? Aren't you interested my eventual offspring?

Here lies the sum of all I have learned and the record of my life. I'll strive for full disclosure yet I know historical texts are rarely used for their author's purpose. You are welcome to live between the lines.