Saturday, 29 September 2012

Blog posts from the ~edge~

For example, if I should paint my toenails green- and it just so happens I do paint them green- if anyone should ask me why, I'll say "because I had some free time and my roommate was away."

Monday, 24 September 2012

Music not-theatre Mondays: Silly love songs

We're shaking things up today! Instead of a piece of theatre, I'd like to talk about a different form of music: love songs. Okay, some of them are from musical theatre, but the unifying theme here is love songs. Songs about love. Silly love songs.

1.       You and I by Ingrid Michaelson

Oh yes, they're on this list.
This is a fairly simple love song, but what sets it apart- for me- is that we know who these people are, and we know people like them. We can tell that they’re young, fairly idealistic, and the type of people who want to set out and change the world. The simplicity of the vocals and instrumentals (pretty typical of Michaelson’s songs, I’ve found) really help- the melody is simple and sweet, and the lack of frills means we end up focusing much more on the lyrics- which are all about the nice things this couple wants to do together, with each other and with other people. "Let's get rich and buy our parents homes in the south of France/Let's get rich and give everyone nice sweaters and teach them how to dance."

2.       Stray Italian Greyhound by Vienna Teng

I like this song because it covers a facet of love that I don't think gets covered very often- the scariness of it. Let's face it, love is scary! Sure it's also exhilitating and bubbly and giddy and all those things, but putting your emotional trust in another person is a pretty risky proposition. That's not to say it can't be a worthwhile one, but contemplating the idea isn't a thing of pure warm fuzzies.

I also love how much of a feel you get for the narrator here- someone who's been hurt before and is now confronting the idea of trusting and loving again. "But you had to come along, didn't you/Rev up the crowd, rewrite the rulebook/Where do I go when every no turns into maybe?"

She's Got You High by Mumm-Ra

This one just sounds so peaceful- like a lazy summer day. I know it's from (500) Days of Summer, which is avowedly Not A Love Story, but it's my list, and I'll include it if I want to. "What's this about? I figured love would shine through."

I Will Follow You Into The Dark - Death Cab For Cutie

This song is . . . sort of dark, I guess? I mean, in terms of the fact that it discusses death and dying. But the lyrics never really feel "DARK! SO DARK!" to me. Death in this song is a sort of quiet, gentle thing: "when your soul embarks." It envisions the afterlife as a vacant motel and dying as a rest after a long life. It refutes the idea that love is fear and instead lets the narrator decide for himself what path he wants to follow. It's a sweet song. "Just our hands clasped so tight/Looking for the hint of a spark."

Elephant Love Medley - Moulin Rouge!

Of course this is on this list. Of course this is on this list, and you know why? Dollars to doughnuts, when you hear "silly love songs," you think of this instead of the Paul McCartney version. At least you do if you're of my generation. Thanks to this movie, an entire generation of girls grew up believing that being a courtesan gave you consumption and also required rolling around on the floor and squealing to get a guy. Oh Baz Lurhman, what have you wrought? (But seriously, I love this movie.) "

Faster - Matt Nathanson

I think what we're all learning from this list is that I love bubblegum pop, and I am not ashamed. And that's all I have to say about that. "You taste like sunlight/and strawberry bubble gum."

Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen

Someday I hope to write a Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque story of robbers on the run. And it will be adapted into a movie, and the song playing over every single scene will be this song. And I will know I have done well in this life. "I want to know if love is wild/Babe, I want to know if love is real."

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The charming kook has left the building

16224 / 50000 words. 32% done!

In fairness, this is not the thousand words a day I promised when I first started working on this project. But I have been busy! Oh, how busy I have been. Running to classes, running from classes, running to meetings, running home to cook dinner, catching up on my readings from the class I just swapped into (protip: if ever you should switch classes after a semester starts, don't switch into an English class), visiting home, getting my computer fixed- well, you get the idea. And the upcoming week does not look any calmer- tomorrow I have two regular classes, one dance class, and one audition ending at eleven at night, and then I'm up again at nine the next morning for class. I feel a bit like that episode of Nostalgia Critic where he's screaming "I'M THE ADULT! I DO THE ADULT THINGS!"

I've arrived at a point in my novel now that I didn't expect to reach for at least several thousand more words- the main character's breakdown/panic attack. See, as I've mentioned, the narrator of the novel has OCD and takes medication to control it. It goes missing halfway through her roap trip, and what happens? Boom. Panic. I originally planned for this to be more around the middle of the book, but I've been restructuring the plot lately, and realized that my idea of the trip taking up two-thirds of the plot makes no sense. No one wants to read 30 000 words of getting on and off buses. So the panic attack comes just before the halfway point, and as such, I've been revisiting my own illness, reading over descriptions of what panic attacks feel like, and generally trying to get a sense of what's going on in my main character's head. Ironically enough, part of my inspiration came from the TV I've been watching lately.
I'm sorry, were you looking for the sweet, pliant
abuse victim/PTSD sufferer? WRONG NUMBER.

When I get back to my room at night, I'm generally too tired to read or write, so instead I flop on the couch and catch an hour of TV before I go to bed. My latest hour's worth of entertainment has been BBC America's Copper, a show which seems almost uniquely designed to appeal to me: it's a period drama, it's a diaspora story, it's about the underprivileged class that history generally ignores. Also it's kind of like Gangs of New York, but if the screenwriter had had a firmer grasp on the idea of "characterization."

At first glance, the show has exactly zip to do with my book, and honestly, it doesn't- different types of characters, different plots, a sad lack of telepaths. (I feel like every form of media could be improved with telepaths.) What impresses me so much about the show is the way it deals with mental illness, and specifically PTSD. It has two characters with obvious, overt symptoms, and several others who display more subdued reactions. It does well by them, I think- making sure they're sympathetic without turning them into victimized caricatures. And most importantly of all (to me) it says something that a lot of media surrounding mentally ill people never address: being mentally ill does not automatically make you a nice person.

We have a tendency, I think, to valorize those with mental illnesses- we have our Rain Mans and our I Am Sams and our Beautiful Minds where the lead might be crazy, but it's okay! They're a genius so that makes up for it. Or you'll get the Inspirationally Mentally Ill/Disabled character, who is so gosh-darn sweet and kind and self-sacrificing that you'd swear they escaped from a Candyland board. I understand why this happens- to most, disability and illness seem like terrible things, so they try to find some way of "fixing the afflicted," so to speak. They may hear voices, but they're so good at math! They may have flashbacks, but they're so stoic and hot! They may never be able to live independently, but they're so sweet and cuddly!

If the words "just get over it" leave your mouth,
I will shoot you in the EYE.
Except . . . no. No, that's not how it works, and I wouldn't want it to anyway. Making disabled or sick characters one-dimensional angels fails on a writing level- no one is a one-dimensional angel unless they're on an episode of Supernatural- and on a basic human level, because reducing us to that stereotype robs us of our basic humanity. The disabled are still human. We have bad days. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we snap and yell at people. Sometimes we react to our problems badly and take it out on others. Sometimes we don't have good coping mechanisms. That's what makes us people. And disability does not rob us of our basic personhood. If you think that, you're a crappy writer, and also a pretty crappy person. And that- among other things- is part of what I'm trying to do with this book. People with disabilities and mental illnesses exist. Some of us are teenagers. Some of us are even on your YA bookshelves.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Until we meet again!

I'm afraid I don't have a wordcount to report today! Tuesdays are busy for me- I have to get up relatively early to catch a morning class, then an afternoon one, then discussion group, then bed. Somewhere in there, I cram in breakfast and dinner, and MAYBE lunch if I have time. So you can see how writing might fall by the wayside a bit.

Actually, that's what this post is about- writing in the near future, or the lack thereof. As much as I like blogging, school does have to come first, as do things like sleep and food. As my schedule stands, updating once a day just isn't feasible- especially as I also want to get some writing done in between school stuff. I'm not abandoning blogging altogether, but given what is and isn't feasible in terms of scheduling, I'll most likely be updating once or twice a week. Music theatre Mondays will still be a thing (especially since I can write them up over the weekend, when I have more free time) and I'll be poking my nose in to update y'all on the novel situation, but posting will be a bit sparse for the forseeable future.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Music theatre Mondays: The people called it ragtime

15627 / 50000 words. 31% done!

I have a weird sort of fascination with mediocre creative products. You can see it in my Goodreads reviews- when I like a book I'll leave a few lines of "yeah, I really enjoyed this," but if the book is bad- or has good points that unfortunately don't outweigh the bad ones, then I'll spend several paragraph citing examples and explaining why the book didn't work for me. I love reviews like that- both of my own work and of others'. "I liked it" or "I hated it" don't elucidate much about why the consumer liked or disliked; detailed reviews help readers understand whether or not they'll enjoy a product, and creators understand what did and didn't work in their creative process.

Which brings me to Ragtime.

Ragtime is based on a 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow, which was also adapted into a movie in 1981, starring a young Samuel Jackson. It's a sort of modern-day Les Miserables, with the cast of thousands and the political backdrop. There are three families, none of whom (with the exception of Coalhouse Walker and his girlfriend Sarah) have names- they're just called Mother, Father, Tateh (which means "father") etc, because this is a Serious Allegorical Novel that Needs No Names. The book was adapted into a musical in 1998, and won multiple Tony Awards. It's playing now at the Shaw Festival, which is where I saw it. Upon seeing it, I came to the following conclusions:

  1. The music is great! 
  2. The script is terrible.
I can see very well where the problems came from- the book is a panorama of 1910s New York, much in the way that Les Miz covers a vast scope of French society of the 1800s. The problem is, the musical bites off far more than it can chew. It wants to tell a story about every single one of its characters and, in the alotted two and a half hour running time, manages to tell none of them. It wants to make a statement about American culture and the American Dream, but ultimately says nothing because they haven't had time to build to any kind of thematic conclusion. They stuff the stage with cameos from various historical figures- here's Henry Ford! Here's Evelyn Nesbit! Here's Emma Goldman!- but none of them have any real, long-lasting impact on the plot. With the possible exception of Booker T. Washington, who actually influences one of the characters' decisions, absolutely none of these people need to be here. They definitely don't need to have their own songs, which they all do. (Ironically enough, I think Washington is the only major figure without a song.) Some of this, from what I understand, is  a holdover from the novel- where Nesbit had a subplot involving Tateh's daughter (who also doesn't get a name)- but the fact is, she serves no purpose other than the Younger Brother character crushing on her and then throwing an entitled rich boy temper tantrum when she won't love him back. This character is possibly one of the most eminently punchable I've ever seen in musical theatre, second only to Roger Davis. (Oh believe me, I'll get to him one of these days.) "I'm rich! My sister's husband gave me a job! But Evelyn Nesbit won't love me! My life is empty and without meaning! Wahhh!"

The face of First World Problems

I find most of the rich family offputting for exactly this reason- they don't need to be here. It's amazing how much they don't need to be here. Their only purpose is to walk in and become the White Saviour characters for the audience to sympathize and identiy with, despite the fact that nothing in their background indicates that they would be this compassionate and non-racist. They exist to make the audience feel better about their grandpa who still cracks racist jokes. It's as simple as that. And considering how little connection these characters have to each other in general, we don't even need them around to tie everything together, because they just emphasize how little sense this story makes. Coalhouse comes off as massively selfish, since he abandons his son to become a terrorist; poor Sarah gets virtually no characterization before being stuffed in the fridge; Tateh bobs in and out of the story, undergoing massive development offstage; and the various historical figures, as I've said, have nothing to do with anything. So if the musical is so terrible, why am I so fascinated by it?

Well, I love the subject matter. Immigrant history fascinates me, especially urban immigrant history, especially in this time period. And for all that the musical fails so epically at tying their themes together, I do at least respect them for making the effort. It's not like I can't appreciate panorama stories; Gangs of New York is one of my favourite movies, and for similar reasons. But Ragtime is a musical, not a movie; it doesn't have the advantage of gorgeous cinematography and period detail to capture the audience. So what does it have?

Well . . . the music is amazing. Really, truly amazing. I have a good chunk of the soundtrack on my iPod, and  I listen to it regularily. For all that the historical figures don't need to be in the show, they have some of the best numbers. I could happily play "Crime of the Century" or "Henry Ford" or "The Night That Goldman Spoke at Union Square" for hours. "Wheels of a Dream" is beautiful and heartbreaking. The Prologue is breathtaking, even if it does take TEN MINUTES to introduce everyone. I challenge you to listen to this and not want to jump out of your seat and dance. (Although: what's up with the choreography? You've got this big showstopping number, and you . . . have the actors stand in a circle and stomp their feet? Come on, guys.)

But most of all, I think I really just respect the authors for trying. Did they succeed? No, not in my opinion. But I have a lot of respect for people who are willing to make the effort to shine a light on some little-known parts of history. Even if it does mean watching John Hinckley up there whine about how he can't get in Evelyn Nesbit's drawers.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

"And now I'm going home"

14915 / 50000 words. 30% done!

I'm back! And apparently a weekend off was what I needed in the first place, because my wordcount is once again happily rising. I have my outlines back, and I'm tinkering with them a bit, thinking about story structure and character development and all those good things. I've had some ideas for extending the plot (which was, as it stood, bound to fall short of the necessary wordcount) and the characters are developing un ways that are new and exciting and making me happy. Progress all around!

As part of my weekend off, I a) lounged around the house and watched movies with my mother (The Holiday; it wasn't a masterpiece, but it also wasn't a half-bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon) and b) I went to a local concert in Gage Park. The performer, Heather Dale, has been a favourite of mine for quite some time- I believe I originally heard of her via Tamora Pierce's blog, where she linked to Dale's song "One Of Us" Since Dale is, happily, local to me, I got to see her perform (yay!) and get her autograph (double yay!) Her music is in a genre- Celtic folk- that I've always been fond of, which I guess is no surprise, given that I'm the granddaughter of Scottish immigrants. Possibly it's foolish, but I like feeling connected to my heritage- even if it is just by listening to "Mordred's Lullaby" on repeat. (Yes I know Mordred wasn't Scottish. Shhh.) I've only been to Scotland twice- once when I was two, and as such don't remember a minute of it, and once a few years ago as a post-graduation celebration. It's a bit of a weird experience- neither sides of my family (Scottish on my dad's, French-German on my mom's) have stayed especially connected to their ancestor's culture, but for whatever reason, that's only made me more determined to hold on to it. Culture's a bit of a weird beastie like that- I think the further away you are from the source of it, the more invested you are in keeping it. Maybe it gives you an illusion of belonging to something, although I don't really see it as illusory. Whatever community you're in, it forms part of you're identity. I'm not advocating for subsuming yourself into the group for the greater good (THE GREATER GOOOOOD) but I think for a lot of people- myself included- nationality and culture represent a sort of semi-family, something you're born into and choose to take or leave as you get older.

Whew. Heavy stuff for a Sunday night. But the section I just wrote had the two main characters discussing community and family, so in an odd way, it all comes back around. Here's a little bit of back-and-forth for you:

“But-” I shook my head. “Of course you need to worry about other people. Don’t you want friends? Family?”
“Of course,” she said impatiently, waving a fry in the air for emphasis. “But I don’t need to rely on them, is the thing. I never need to rely on anyone. Even if people take off, it doesn’t matter, because I can still take care of myself. No matter what.”
I stared at her. “That’s really what you want?”
She shrugged. “Nothing to do with want. It’s just how things are.”

Saturday, 15 September 2012

What to sing when you have nothing to say

14015 / 50000 words. 28% done!

Guess who left all her outlines at school? This girl! So I probably won't get much writing done this weekend, at least not with the novel proper- instead I'll be catching up on my reading, and maybe write some pre-novel vignettes to get more of a feel for the characters. In the meantime, I thought I'd do something fun. 

Like most writers, I listen to music while I'm working- it occupies the parts of my brain that aren't focused on the words (so I don't get bored or restless) and helps me get in the mood for what I want to write. Since I don't have much in the way of content to show y'all today, I thought I'd share some of my writing playlist instead. The songs don't necessarily relate to the book in a thematic sense, although some of them do- they just have a feel and rhythm that puts me in a mindspace to write these characters and this setting.

Plus, they're just really kickass songs.

Run - Snow Patrol
Little Talks - Of Monsters and Men
Wake Up - Arcade Fire
Raise Hell - Brandi Carlile
No Rest For The Wicked - Cage the Elephant
Phenomena - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Radioactive - Marina and the Diamonds
Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes
Use Somebody - Kings of Leon
Consequence - The Notwist

Friday, 14 September 2012

Friends! Writers! Countrymen!

I've been told that HarperCollins Publishers is braching out to create a new sci-fi/fantasy division, and is holding an open submissions period for the first fourteen days of October. I'm nowhere submission-ready, but if you are or are likely to be by October 14th, send in your stuff!

Big Google is watching you

13682 / 50000 words. 27% done!

Once again, I missed a day of blogging; once again it was, in the most technical terms, Not My Fault. You see, yesterday I awoke to find an e-mail informing me that my blog was suspected of being spam, and would be locked down until I 

  1. Entered a captcha
  2. Gave Google my phone number so that they could text me a passcode
  3. Entered the passcode, and
  4. waited until Google reviewed my application and unlocked my blog
If you think that all this is kind of a lot of hoops to jump through just to avert suspicion that you might be a spambot- especially when your blog got locked down without any confirmation and a five-second glance over it would prove that it was no such thing- congratulations! You and I share a brain. You know, I already find Google's insistence on tying ALL YOUR ACCOUNTS- Youtube, Blogger, Twitter- together under one username/e-mail creepy, but the creepy gets approximately a hundred times worst when they insist on getting YOUR PHONE NUMBER in order to counteract unfounded, un-investigated suspicious that you're a spambot. You could at least buy a girl dinner first, Google.

Since I just started this blog a few weeks ago, I'm not really interested in closing shop and moving- it's kind of like switching apartments after a month because you find out your landlord is actually a paranoid creep. (Actually, that's exactly what it's like.) So I'm not going anywhere, But should this blog ever disappear, leaving only a "this blog has violated our Terms of Service" message, know that I went down fighting bravely.

Like this. Exactly like this. But with less face paint.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

You drive me crazy . . . by telling me I'm not

12071 / 50000 words. 24% done!

Look at that! One percentage point away from 25%! I AM THE CHAMPION, MY FRIENDS.

I'm at a point in the novel which is simultaneously easier and more difficult to write. Easier because the characters (who, up to this point, have been deeply wary about opening up to each other) have started to become close, and harder because the opening-up of the relationship means more information is being passed between the two, which makes the plot move faster. Which doesn't sound like a bad thing, but then you realize that more conversation equals the plot moving forward, and the plot moving forward means my wordcount shrinking. I am finding that the writing itself feels more smooth and natural now that the characters are communicating, but I'm worrying that now the plot will move too quickly. There are some things they're still keeping from each other, but they're definitely being more open.

One of the things that's kept them- and consequently, me- from being communicative so far is the fact that one of them has depression and OCD. This was one of the foundational building blocks of her character- not "she's mentally ill and that's all there is to her," but "she's mentally ill, and her illness + the experiences resulting from this have influenced her personality and opinions." 

That's how this book got started, actually. I'd been reading a bunch of books (by different authors) that all operated on the premise "X character is diagnosed as mentally ill. But really, they have MAGIC POWERS! The diagnosis is just society keeping them down!" And, you know, that's great! But it doesn't do much for mentally ill teens who are reading these books looking for some characters they can relate to. So I started to ponder- what if a character had powers and was mentally ill? I'd never read a book like that. And as we all know "If there's a book you want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." I struggled with depression in high school, and OCD since I was fairly young, so it seemed natural to give my heroine the same two problems. (They tend to go hand in hand, especially if Illness #1 isn't being properly treated and leads to Illness #2.) This led to a few problems. I don't know if you've ever had depression, but contrary to popular opinion, it doesn't just mean "being sad." Often it means being tired and quiet. If you're depressed, you sleep a lot, and not in the "I'm sad and going to curl up in bed-" it's because it's a massive feat of energy to get out of bed at all. Plot-advancing actions are frequently beyond you. 

And then there's the attendant issue, that people tend to confront someone with a diagnosis by saying "well you don't SEEM X." When I was originally diagnosed with anxiety (misdiagnosis, long story) and told a friend about it, his first response was "well you don't seem anxious." (Note to readers: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, DO THIS. It takes a lot of courage to be open about a diagnosis of such a muddied, misunderstood illness, and dismissing them when they say it is a massive slap in the face.) Mental illnesses are frequently misunderstood and mischaracterized by the general public, spurred on by inaccurate depictions in mass media.


Absolutely not.

You think "OCD" you think "compulsive cleaning," right? Maybe "fixated on small details?" Actually, wrong. Some people with the disorder do clean compulsively, but it's not a solitary symptom. OCD is characterized by the presence of intrusive thoughts, a sort of mental CD skipping that repeats the same unwanted thought over and over and over. Sometimes the thoughts are religious ("I'm going to hell") sometimes violent ("One day I'm going to snap and shoot someone.") and sometimes sexual ("I'm attracted to my family members/animals/children.") There's no accompanying compulsion to act on these thoughts- people with violent I.T.s aren't actually a threat, and people with sexual ones aren't really attracted to animals or children. They might even understand this on an intellectual level, if they're familiar with the fact that they have an illness, but the sheer amount of misinformation keeps a lot of people from seeking help in the first place. They don't know they have an illness, because they don't know what that illness entails. I didn't. My character got lucky in that she has medically trained people in her family who recognized her symptoms, but even though she gets a proper diagnosis (prior to the story's beginning- the plot proper involves running away from evil scientists and their brainwashed minions) that doesn't necessarily mean the readers will recognize her symptoms when they manifest. And not least of the problems is the fact that "crazy" is so often used as a shorthard for "violent/dangerous," so when she repeats the internalized idea that being crazy (and telekinetic, but that's a different problem entirely) means being a threat to the people she cares about, the readers might not.

Possibly my worries are overblown; definitely they're premature. I'm not even halfway through the first draft. But just looking at my own experiences and the way the majority of pop culture views mental illness (either "it doesn't exist" or "it exists as portrayed by these guys") I suspect they aren't. I also suspect that I'd be worrying whether I was writing a book or not. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

I've got the first-book-draft blues

10348 / 50000 words. 21% done!

Neither computer problems nor writer's block, nor essays nor a busy schedule will keep me from getting my wordcount done for the day! And look at that, I'm almost at 25%. Pop out the champagne!

. . . okay, not really. I mean, I do have a good wordcount for the point I'm at in the novel (mid-Chapter Four) but I'm struggling with what all writers struggle with: insecurity about their own abilities. The problem with a job that involves being so much in your own head all the time is that you lost perspective on your work too easily. It's not a team job, like architecture- unless you're co-writing, there's no sharing of the workload, so a) it's all on you, and b) IT'S ALL ON YOU. Ergo, if you make a mistake, you generally have to figure out how to fix it by yourself. (I actually have co-written in the past, and the creative sharing of ideas is loads of fun, even if you must occasionally resist the urge to throttle your co-writer.) And of course, writing is a relatively subjective endeavour, so it's not like "the roof caved in! Clearly we did something wrong!" Something can feel wrong, but after being wrapped up in the project for weeks on end, it's hard to put your finger on why it doesn't feel right. (I almost typed "write" there. God, I'm tired.)

The thing that's most important to keep in mind, I think, is the fact that it's a first draft. You just have to keep chanting first draft, first draft, first draft in order to keep yourself from losing it and running naked up and down the freeway screaming about bears. Not that I'm there yet. Mostly.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Introducing: music theatre Mondays!

9323 / 50000 words. 19% done!

 Never let it be said that I allow computer problems to prevent me from writing.

Pursuant to my post on Tragic Gays, I have a little linkspam for you! Here's a list of four new queer YA books; here's Autostraddle's list of the 20 best novels for queer girls (I did raise my eyebrow at "Perks of Being a Wallflower's" inclusion, given that it's actually queer-free, but I suppose tastes vary) and here's a blog post by Sarah Diemer (author of The Dark Wife, which I highly recommend) on the so-called "realism" of queer YA romances with sad endings.

I was thinking last night that I need set topics to blog about; if I keep going as I am now, I'll run out of steam by the end of the month. And while I'm sure you're all fascinated by my endless computer woes, I should shake things up a bit. So: MUSIC THEATRE MONDAYS!

You know what I love? Music. You know what else I love? The theatre. (I love Slings&Arrows, but I'm always a bit pained when they take swipes at musical theatre for being stupid or insipid or whatever. Yeah, okay, so there's more of a focus on song and dance than language; that doesn't mean that the art form hasn't made significant contributions to the popular consciousness.) Some of my friends and family think of me as a theatre snob, but that's not really true- at least, I don't think it is- I don't object to loving some seriously silly or flawed stuff. I'm an avowed fan of The Producers, after all. When I object to a piece of theatre (or a book, or a movie, or a TV show) it's not because I think it's stupid; it's because I think it's harmful. Like, when I object to Spring Awakening, it's not because I don't like "The Bitch of Living" (it's a pretty kickin' song) or the anachronisms in costume (I think it's a cool way of relating the characters to modern teenagers); it's because I think that it says things about sex and teeenaged-hood that are harmful (it's okay to sleep with someone who has no understanding of what she's doing!)

ANYWAY. That was a total tangent. What I was trying to say was, I like musical theatre. So what I want to do with these music-theatre Mondays is spotlight musicals that I personally really love and talk a bit about why I love them and what I think they're trying to say.

First up: Bonnie and Clyde!

This show opened and closed pretty quickly, which I understand, but think is a shame. It's not what most people think when they hear "Bonnie and Clyde;" they think sexy, they think danger, they think half-naked Faye Dunaway.

Not that I'm complaining, per se . . .

But the actual Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow- who I didn't know too much about until I started doing background reading on this show- weren't especially thrilling or sexy. What they were, above most other things, was tragic. They both had pretty crapsack lives, before and after going on the road, and this is what this musical really touches on. It's the only adaptation of the story that (for instance) that acknowledges that Clyde Barrow spent a chunk of his early life living under a bridge, or that he was raped in prison, or that "nobody ever gets out of West Dallas." It doesn't surprise me at all that this show was written when it was; the original demo was, I think, recorded in 2008, right about the time that the stock market crashed. When does the show take place? 1932. Three years after Black Tuesday. Songs like "Made In America" (my personal favourite, not least which because it's a lot of fun to headbang angrily to) and "What Was Good Enough For You" hammer home the point- life in the Great Depression SUCKED. It sucked even harder if you were poor to begin with. So what do you do if you're poor, starving, and have been repeatedly abused by the justice system? Well, you go on a crime spree! (Note: do not actually do this.)

Unfortunately, the reason I love this show so much is the exact reason (I think) it closed so fast. For one thing, Broadway audiences are generally pretty well-off; you have to be, to afford tickets. So a show about the angry, disenfranchised poor turning on those more well-off than them is not an easy sell for that kind of audience. But more than that- and this goes back to what I said about what people expect from "Bonnie and Clyde-" this musical is just too raw. It's too real. The writers never shy away from the kinds of people they're writing about- and as sympathetic as I find them, they really did do awful things- and when you add in the fact that people didn't go in expecting realistic examples of Depression-era criminals, it's not really a wonder that ticket sales weren't great. So it closed. And I am terribly sad that I never got to see it, though I do live in hope that it'll be put on at a local community theatre. And there is always the soundtrack to listen to. We may be in debt . . .

Sunday, 9 September 2012

And that's when I got the shotgun, your Honour

When we last left this trainwreck, I had been informed that in order to recover my data, I had to haul my computer over to Best Buy and pay them a round $250 to get them to transfer it over to an external hard drive. This I did! But there have been developments. Oh, there have been developments.

So I paid the money and got the data on the EHD, and carried my computer back home to get it fixed. I called up the computer repair people- who are also the people who manufactured and sold it to me in the first place- and did as they told me to reset it to factory defaults. I clicked on the buttons. Error message. I went back and clicked again. Error message.

Me: Um hello, your process for fixing my computer isn't working?
Him: Oh, it seems it needs to be repaired by professionals. Send it to our outlet in Markham, and you should get it back in about two weeks.
Me: -wait. Can I not take it to the local repair place?
Him: Well you can, but it won't be covered by the warranty, and you'll have to pay for it.
Me: . . .

So I'm just like- SURE. FINE. WHATEVER. So into the outlet in Markham it goes, and I'm on a borrowed computer until it gets back. So I head back to my dorm earlier today and attempt to log on to the internet.

Internet: Error. Product key not valid.



Customer Service Dude: The code only works once, and then it's obsolete. If you want to get our service on another computer, you need to go to the co-op office and explain the situation to them.
Me: THANK YOU MUCHLY. *hangs up*

Then: I went to look up the office hours.

And discovered that they are closed on Sundays.


Saturday, 8 September 2012

In which I get serious, and more than a little mad

I read a book today. I'm not going to mention the title or author, because honestly, they're both beside the point. I've read this book before. I've read hundreds of this book before. It varies in content and genre and reading level, but one thing remains consistent no matter what the variables: it always, always has a Tragic Gay.

Case in point.
The Tragic Gay (always gay- bisexuals don't exist in the universes this book takes place in, and transpeople aren't even considered) sometimes exists during the timeline of the story, and sometimes is only a footnote in the main characters' backstory. Sometimes they even get to be a main character. Sometimes they're the protagonist, sometimes the antagonist. The one common thread in this parade of gays is that they are Tragic. Often they're victims of bullying, usually they have some unrequited passion for a straight person, and frequently they commit suicide. Very frequently, they end up in the great refrigerator in the sky, and our mains weep and beat the ground with their fists and cry many straight person tears for their poor Tragic Gay friend. Then they go off and save the world with their magic, heterosexual powers and the Tragic Gay smiles beatifically from heaven or wherever they've been shuffled off to. For lo, they have served their purpose;  the author can feel good about themselves for "representation," and the audience can cry for the plight of those poor Tragic Gays and the queer audience . . . um . . . well gosh, you just can't please some people! But some will no doubt eat from the plate they've given, because even if the food is rotten, it's better than starving.

I have read- and seen- this story so many times, and I am beyond goddamn sick of it. Hey powers that be, know why our kids keep killing themselves? Because you're telling them to. Tell someone a story often enough, and they start to believe it. Tell someone that being gay automatically equals a lifetime of noble suffering often enough, and they start to understand that this is what they can expect their life to be. Is it true? Not necessarily. I'm not one for the empty platitudes of the It Gets Better project- well to be honest, I'm not one for Dan Savage in general- but I do think that when you create art, you have a responsibility to consider what cultural and sociological impact art has. We tell stories because they mean something to us- they tell us who we are and where we come from. They tell us not to talk to strangers and to be kind and keep our promises. They tell us what we can expect from the world, and what is happening around us. Do you think it's a coincidence that in the eighties and nineties, we had so many stories about gay men dying of AIDS? Did a bunch of artists wake up one morning, isolated from all current affairs, and say "I'm gonna write an AIDS story?" Of course not. They wrote it because they saw the issues being faced in the world around them and said "I want to explore this story with my art." And now, on the heels of several well-publicized suicides of gay teenagers, we have stories about attempted suicide. And people- children- are surrounded by these stories and decide that this is what they can expect from life. Can we blame them? It's not like we offer them alternatives.

If I never have to watch another outing story or bullying narrative, if I never have to read another book where the main character's sidekick is defined by being gay and persecuted, if I never have to watch another goddamned episode of goddamned Downton Abbey where the lone gay character sits in a corner and cries because his love interest slashed his wrists- if you agree, if you're sick of this shit too, here's what you can do.

Don't write it.

It's as simple as that.

Don't write it. It's more than possible to write stories about gay people- or, shock of shocks- queer people who are NOT gay without drowning them in misery and calling it inspirational. It's been done. It's been done well! (Although how fucking depressing is it that two of those books had to be self-published? Mainstream publishers, you need to STEP UP YOUR SHIT.) I know Annie on My Mind and Keeping You A Secret were important when they were released, and I'm grateful for what they accomplished. But it's not enough anymore. If you agree? Then say so. Comment right here, comment on your blog, comment in your writing that you're not participating in this any longer. It has to stop.

This quote here? It's by E.M. Forster, the author of Maurice. His book wasn't published until the 1970s, because the idea of gay characters having a happily ever after was so anathema in the time it was written, he didn't dare try publish it. It's not the 1970s anymore. I think we can do better.

"A happy ending was imperative. I shouldn’t have bothered to write otherwise. I was determined that in fiction anyway two men should fall in love and remain in it for the ever and ever that fiction allows, and in this sense Maurice and Alec still roam the greenwood. I dedicated it ‘To a Happier Year’ and not altogether vainly. Happiness is its keynote – which by the way . . . has made the book more difficult to publish. If it ended unhappily, with a lad dangling from a noose or with a suicide pact, all would be well . . . but the lovers get away unpunished and consequently recommend crime."

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The bog of eternal stench meets the blog of existential despair

8032 / 50000 words. 16% done!

Portrait of the author.
 There must be a universal rule somewhere that states "if you are awoken before nine in the morning by a customer service representative, it probably means your day is not going to go well." Whether there is or not, it certainly applies in my case. On Wednesday morning, I was awoken at the charming (if you're a bird) hour of 8:45, by a Bell Canada salesperson to inform me that my message of "hey, please cancel this order" finally got through to them and they'd cancelled it. I didn't actually drag my carcass out of bed until an hour after that, having already recognized that the day had given up before it even started, but sure enough, it went flying downhill as soon as I got out of bed. It was blisteringly hot (one might point out that it's been blisteringly hot for weeks now, and this is not a sign that the universe is conspiring against me, but I know better) I missed the bus (although "missed" implies a certain amount of complicity on my part, like I was running late and didn't get to the stop on time. What ACTUALLY happened was the bus driver speeding right through the stop, even as I waved to get on, possibly flipping me the bird as he did so) a call from home informed me that my cat had pissed all over my beloved childhood stuffed animals, and last but not least, my computer done broke.

Now my computer is only two months old, so I might be forgiven for assuming that a) this is pretty early for it to go and die on me, and b) that the warranty it's under will cover repairs. So after I did what I always do when the computer breaks and called my mommy ("MOMTHECOMPUTERWONTTURNON! ALLMYWRITINGISONTHERE! IDUNNOWHATTODOOOOOOOOOOOO!") I called up the computer tech people to ask why their fine product appeared to be functioning as well as the toy telephone I had when I was three.

[Half an hour of consultation and several automated sales pitches later]

Me: So what you're saying
Me: is that the computer I paid you five hundred bucks for
Me: the computer I paid you five hundred bucks for last month
Me: has suddenly come down with a case of corrupted hard drive
Me; and now I have to schlep down to Best Buy and pay them a hundred bucks to retrieve my data
Me: the data in danger of being lost because the computer you sold me failed
Me: and I have to pay for this out of pocket
Me: because your warranty doesn't cover it?
Sales Rep: Yes ma'am.

So adios amigos until we meet again! Let it be known that if lightning strikes the Toshiba headquarters in the meantime, they totally deserved it.


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

My ability to word good is all used up for the day

7451 / 50000 words. 15% done!

Ah, that's more like it! All in a day's writing.

(No proper blog post today, because I'm too sleepy. Regular posts will resume shortly!)

Monday, 3 September 2012

Possibly this also explains my aversion to vampires

6455 / 50000 words. 13% done!

Admittedly not the most prolific day I've ever had, but that's what comes of afternoon naps. Do as I say, not as I do.

The word counter I've been using since I started this novel is the NaNoWriMo Word Meter. I've tried NaNo several years in a row, but never managed to complete one. I think my highest wordcount was 5k. I attribute this to two things:

  1. NaNo is held in November, which is the worst of all possible times for students to take up writing 1667 words a day. At least, not 1667 words of stuff that isn't term papers and exams.
  2. I am just really, really bad at deadlines. I'm getting better! I've never missed a deadline in the two years I've been at university! But when your professor isn't looming over you promising hellfire and failing grades should you fail to turn in ten pages on the life of Catherine Tekakwitha, the deadline just lacks that extra oomph.
Number #2 (heh) is a big part of why I started this blog. In 2011, when I signed up for a fanfic challenge to write a fic of at least 15k over the course of a summer, I used the same word counter when updating on Livejournal, and I found it helped when trying to motivate myself. It's easy to get discouraged when you're just staring at the wordcount at the bottom of the Word document; it helps a lot to watch that colour bar inch ever closer to the finish line, whispering "soon, my precious . . . sooooooooooooon."

The other helpful thing, I find, is the percentage calculation. Which is a bit odd, because if you had suggested to me before I started using the word counter that I would be comforted by a percentage, I would have laughed in your face and possibly spit on you and cursed your descendents. I hate math. Haaaaaaaate it. I hate arithmetic. I hate multiplication and division. I hate algebra. I hate calculus. I even hate numbers. Like the number 2, what does it think it's fooling? I can feel it laughing at me. I see that sarcastic upper curve there. My hate extends yea verily to the very first caveperson who invented the concept of numbers. I don't know who or where they are, but I hope they feel very guilty about it.

And yet . . . percentages! They calm me! I think it's a matter of perspective, honestly. Looking at "6445 out of 50, 000" is a good inducement to taking up drinking. Looking at "13%" is much more encouraging. I'm in the double digits! I'm in the teens! And I'm only on Chapter Four! Maybe I can do this after all.

But I haven't forgiven the number 2. Smug bastard.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

On second thought, maybe I'll just stick to dancing

6163 / 50000 words. 12% done!

A Freeform Poem, By The Asthmatic, Out-of-Shape Author, Upon Taking Up Jogging

well this isn’t so bad
I feel kind of badass. Like the king of the road
Or the world
I think I like “king of the road” better. Sounds more Springsteen.
Man, my keys are REALLY noisy. I need a place to keep them that isn’t around my neck.
I think my watchband is loose.
Breathing is getting a bit difficult. No big. I’m the king of the road!
Okay, my chest is starting to hurt. I think I’ll stop at the corner.
Or . . . not at the corner.
Ow, ow, ow.
Oh hey! Passerbys! Well I can’t stop now; they’ll think I’m not committed to the jogging experience.
I am totally committed to the experience. I am the king of jogging. And the road.
Ow ow, burning chest pain, ow. Is this normal?
Maybe I should have googled this before going out.
Is that a bus, or the bright light of my imminent demise?
Am I going to die like Oliver Welles?

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Ganging aft a-gley

Well loyal readers- er, reader- er- let's start again!

Well it seems that my plan to update this blog daily has fallen flat on its ass right out of the gate. To be fair, it's not MY fault; I'm not sitting at home, twiddling my thumbs and refreshing instead of updating. I moved into my university residence today and discovered, to my endless dismay, that the internet will not be up and running until Tuesday. Tuesday!!!! I mean sure I'll be at the theatre for most of tomorrow, and the university itself (plus Williams Cafe, where I am currently situated) has free wifi, but! No! Internet! I, like Anne Shirley, am in the depth of despair.

. . . well at least I'll be able to write with fewer distractions. In the meantime, tally ho, and please enjoy this complementary photo of the chicken ceasar wrap I had for lunch.

Has anyone ever finished one of these? Like, entirely? I think not.