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Cal got sick last Thursday, so I kept him home on Friday and cancelled everything we usually do on the weekend, which we basically spent indoors, me working to deadline with 2017's first completed story, "Distant Dark Places." I finished it on Monday and sent it in to [venue], after a good 3,000 words of sustained writing: 10,327 words, cosmic horror, done in part as a tribute to Caitlin R. Kiernan; the science is probably pretty shaky, but I'm happy with the result.

Otherwise, Cal is ostensibly "better" but still pretty moany and pissy, especially in the mornings. Yesterday I had to browbeat him to get him to eat his breakfast; today started out the same, but I was able to turn it around by the time he left, in a far better mood. Tonight I take him to music with his Wednesday teacher, Roey, so I guess we'll see how that goes. I'm just really glad I don't seem to have picked up his cold, for once, though I have been fighting my way through the worst period I've had in quite a while. Last night was mainly spent on the toilet, bleeding heavily and excreting painfully--boy, I love middle age! Ah well.

Otherwise: this review of Experimental Film (http://www.ada-hoffmann.com/2017/02/11/autistic-book-party-episode-29-experimental-film/) is very interesting and weirdly heartening, mainly because A) it contains feedback from actual people on the spectrum with honest-to-Betsy diagnoses who don't think I've made Clark into a Magical Autistic Kid, which was one of my greatest fears about the narrative, and B) it's not only the first review to recognize that Lois thinks of herself as potentially autistic, but it confirms her/my opinion on that score. What Ada Hoffmann has to say about "me" is a bit painful, but I'll quote it in detail here nevertheless:

Lois begins the novel in a fairly traditional posture, for an autism parent – exasperated and worried by her child, pessimistic about his prognosis, and generally stressed and exhausted. The first scenes in which Clark appears are difficult to get through, because of some of Lois’s negative mental comments about him. But the scenes also introduce a complication that the back cover didn’t mention:

But my version of fucked up was never going to be enough like his to help us meet in the middle; I come from the other end of the spectrum. And I remember sitting next to my mom, going down the list of Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis points one by one, showing her how much they reminded me of how I’d been as a child, an adolescent, before socialization kicked the worst of it out of me. “Little Professor Syndrome,” check. Rabid enthusiasms, check. Inability to converse without monologizing, check. Vocabulary far exceeding normal age standards, check. Frustration, check. Inability to form friendships, check. Violent tantrums, check. Self-harm, check. Check, check, check.
“Don’t you see?” I asked her. “This is why this happened. Because I’m just like him, except it’s all on the inside.”
She looked at me then with what might have been sympathy, but what I read (at the time) as contempt, the way I’m prone to do. Because – another check – I’ve never really been able to tell what other people are thinking just by looking at their faces, unless their faces are up on a movie screen.
“Come on, Lois,” she said. “It’s bad enough as it is. Don’t try to make this all about you.“

What the book shows about Lois confirms that she is, in fact, autistic. She is fixed and fanatical in her interests. She comes of to other characters as strange, prickly, difficult to deal with. She is easily overwhelmed, shutting down and dissociating under stress. She is confused about human motivation, or sometimes fails to take it into account at all. Lois’s narrative voice is not the stereotyped “autism voice”, but it is a voice full of intense detail, dense information, frequent asides to passionately explain something – a voice that rings very true to me, as an autistic person.

So – this is important. “Experimental Film” is marketed as a book about an Autism Parent, but it’s actually a book about more than one autistic person. Lois – low-support, depressed, passing for abled, and additionally disabled with more than one form of chronic pain – experiences her autism in one way. Clark, who at this point in his life cannot possibly pass, experiences it in another, and Lois doesn’t always know how to deal with him appropriately, any more than an NT mother would.

Lois does several things right. She never denies her child’s humanity or devalues his life. There’s no mention of ABA or any other abusive therapy. Lois consistently pushes back against people, including her own mother, who suggest that Clark should simply be trained to parrot the correct response. She knows very well that Clark needs to be accepted for who he is, and is extremely critical of her own failures to do that.

Because Lois does fail in many ways. She barely pays attention to Clark for the first hundred pages of the book. She says negative things in front of him that she assumes he will not understand. (And is called on it – rightly – by her husband Simon, a very sweet and patient man who seems to do most of the childcare.) Clark is shown being clearly affectionate to both parents, but Lois insists that she cannot know he loves her, that his echolalic statements about it somehow don’t count the way they do when they’re directed at Simon. Her general pattern with Clark is one of distance:




But I have to protect myself, first and foremost: not from him, but from my own… disappointment in him, over things he can’t even help… I have to keep myself just far enough apart from him to be able to love him at all, knowing it’ll never be as much as he deserves to be loved. And that’s not because he’s broken, no. Not at all.
That’s because I am.

Did I mention Lois is depressed? Lois is really depressed. She is consistently even more critical of herself as a person than she deserves. She is also so consumed with interest in her work – which is, of course, an autistic trait – that she barely has patience for anything else. She consistently pushes herself hard enough that it actively worsens her pain, her sleep patterns, and her relationships with her family. And that’s before the supernatural horror aspect of the novel kicks into high gear.

When we try to think of good representation, we are so often thinking of role models. Lois is not that. She’s also not a stereotype, not a plot device, not a supercrip or Evil Disabled Person. She’s a flawed, complex, breathing human whose flaws and complexity are fully portrayed. She is not sugarcoated, and once I got used to her level of internalized ableism – “A defective person, raising a defective child“, as she calls herself at one point – I appreciated that.

(I’m reminded of a Short Story Smorgasbord I did a while back, when I said that I didn’t object to having unlikeable autistic protagonists, I just didn’t think the one in that particular story was done well. I guess it’s time to put my money where my mouth was: Lois is an unlikeable autistic protagonist, done right.)



The running charge of internalized ableism is a hard one to face, but I have to say, it's also a pretty fair cop. Then again, I think this may well be yet another generational issue; I never got my diagnosis, so I've spent most of my life thinking of myself as someone who just doesn't work the way the world's default setting calls for, and feeling pretty bad about it. If Hoffmann's managed to get to adulthood without that, more power to her--but then again, when I write from Lois's POV about Lois, the things I say about her are basically me talking about me. I'd like to hope I say better things about Cal, or even Clark--in and of himself, as opposed to where his behaviours intersect with my fears for him. Certainly, in real life, I envy Cal's ability to be what often seems like unaware of his own difference, and all the happier for it.

Anyhow. What else has been going on is mainly me taking stock of what needs to be done next: I have a fetish erotica piece that needs to get finished up sometime next week and sent to [other venue], and I'm still reformatting my Oz stuff for the AO3 while simultaneously re-viewing the series in reverse. Last night was Episode 15 of Season Four, the back half, which contains one of the absolute dumbest plotlines Oz ever had, the one about the premature aging drug trial group. Then again, it's also the episode where Vern briefly gets religion under Reverend Cloutier (Luke Perry)'s influence and tries to apologize to Beecher during one of Sister Pete's reconciliation interactions, as well as the episode where Beecher and Keller sort of start to make up. In their case, of course, this involves Beecher seducing his new cellmate Ronnie Barlog after learning he's an old friend of Keller's (Keller's already pissed Beecher off by saying his visiting brother Angus is cute and asking if he fools around); Keller naturally responds by seducing the guy too, telling him he's always loved him, to which Beecher responds: "Jesus, Ronnie, he doesn't love anybody. It's just another ponzi." Then that FBI agent shows up, trying to get poor, dumb Ronnie to flip on Keller for his serial murders, dangling a sentence reduction in front of him. "I have to call my lawyer," Barlow says, and goes straight to Beecher, ready to swap sex for a consultation. Beecher then goes straight to Keller and warns him about what Barlow's contemplating, and Keller snaps the guy's neck in mid-blowjob. So romantic!;)

(People did see it as sort of romantic at the time, as I recall, though to me it just rings of Beecher going: Well, if he's dead-set on killing every dude I sleep with, why the hell am I playing hard to get? The sex is fun, and it's not like I don't know not to trust him anymore--that still puts him at least one up on Vern, right there. Because there's nothing like the legally-trained mind for cutting deals or justifying the need to cut them, at least to yourself.)

Okay, done. Back to it.
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Today starts February, which is (amongst other things) Women in Horror Month, something I almost always forget to celebrate. I usually tell myself it's because i'm too busy doing other stuff--writing horror, for example. But really it has far more to do with the fact that I'm behind in general; blame it on that guy, this time 'round (I think you know the guy I mean). I'm finding it really hard to rationalize "indulging" myself creatively while all this is going on, which is stupid at best and arrogant at worst; not like I can stop any of it, after all. So the very least I can do is try to write stories that show the world the way it can be: inclusive, moral, emotionally mature. The fact that said stories are horror might undercut these ideas, in some people's eyes; fuck 'em, I say. If nothing else, I can honestly state that bad things usually happen to my characters not because of "what" they are, but because of who.

Anyhow. Here's that list of characters I like, slanted at least a little in favour of the non-cis white male portion of my brain. Some of them are new, some very old; I note a fair amount of creepy zealot grandmothers, bad gay role models, female monsters and supernatural creatures of fairly fluid sexuality in the mix, but seriously: this is how I roll. Y'all don't know that by now, y'all don't know nothin'.

Joan Watson (Lucy Liu, Elementary)
Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller, Elementary)
Tara Chambler (Alanna Masterson, The Walking Dead)
Michonne (Danai Gurira, The Walking Dead)
Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan, The Walking Dead)
Sasha Williams (Sonequa Martin-Green)
Philip Blake (David Morrissey, The Walking Dead)
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln, The Walking Dead)
Matt Murdock
Claire Temple
Elektra Natchios
Foggy Nelson
Karen Page
Frank Castle
Jessica Jones
Trish Walker
Luke Cage
Misty Knight
Alex Eames (Kathryn Erbe, Law & Order: Criminal Intent)
Rafael Barba (Raul Esparza, Law & Order: SVU)
Bobby Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio, Law & Order: Criminal Intent)
Samantha Groves aka Root (Amy Acker, Person of Interest)
Sameen Shaw (Sarah Shahi, Person of Interest)
Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson, Person of Interest)
Sarah Manning et al (Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black)
Felix Dawkins (Jordan Gavaris, Orphan Black)
Mrs S. aka Siobhan Sadler (Maria Doyle Kennedy, Orphan Black)
Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson, Empire)
Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett, Empire)
Vanessa Ives (Eva Green, Penny Dreadful)
Clara Webb (Gemma Arterton, Byzantium)
Eleanor Webb (Saoirse Ronan, Byzantium)
M. (Dame Judi Dench, Daniel Craig James Bond movies)
Chrisjen Aversarala (Shoreh Aghdashloo, The Expanse)
Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper, The Expanse)
Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams, The Expanse)
Dutch aka Yalena Yardeen (Hannah John-Kamen, Killjoys)
Seyah Pawter Simms (Sarah Power, Killjoys)
Delle Seyah Kendry (Mayko Nguyen, Killjoys)
Nikita Mears (Maggie Q, Nikita)
Alexandra Udinov (Lyndsy Fonseca, Nikita)
Amanda aka Helen Collins (Melinda Clarke, Nikita)
Annalise Keating (Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder)
Michael Pratt (Aja Naomi King, How to Get Away With Murder)
Laurel Castillo (Karla Souza, How to Get Away With Murder)
Bonnie Winterbottom (Liza Weil, How to Get Away With Murder)
Eve Rothlo (Famke Janssen, How to Get Away With Murder)
Ophelia Harkness (Cicely Tyson, How to Get Away With Murder)
Lady Eboshi (Mononoke Hime)
San (Mononoke Hime)
Belit of Shem (Conan)
Gabriel Elohim (Constantine, The Prophecy)
John Constantine
Asia the Invincible aka Dongfang Bubai (Brigitte Lin Chin-hsia, Swordsman 2, Swordsman 3: The East is Red)
Snow aka Xiue Qianshun (Joey Wang, Swordsman 3: The East is Red)
Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska, Crimson Peak)
Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain, Crimson Peak)
Maya (Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty)
Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery, Salem)
Anne Hale (Tamzin Merchant, Salem)
Mercy Lewis (Elise Eberle, Salem)
Tituba (Ashley Madekwe, Salem)
Emily Thorne aka Amanda Clarke (Emily VanCamp, Revenge)
Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann, Revenge)
Judge (Simon Yam, Full Contact)
Moses (John Boyega, Attack the Block)
Lucrezia Borgia (Holliday Grainger, The Borgias)
Cesare Borgia (Francois Arnaud, The Borgias)
Micheletto Corella (Sean Harris, The Borgias)
Loki Laufeyjarson
Medea of Colchis
Xena (Lucy Lawless, Xena: Warrior Princess)
Milady de Winter aka Anne de Breuile (The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years Later)
Stahma Tarr (Jaime Murray, Defiance)
Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz, Defiance)
Irisa Nolan (Stephanie Leonidas)
Tenar of Atuan aka Goha (The Tombs of Atuan, Tehanu, The Other Wind)
Violet (Jennifer Tilly, Bound)
Vanessa Lutz (Reese Witherspoon, Freeway)
Madame la Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons)
Jadis of Charn aka the White Witch (The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
Lada Dragwylya (As I Darken)
Radu Dragwylya (As I Darken)
Rhani Yago (The Sardonyx Net)
Zed Yago (The Sardonyx Net)
Dana Ikoro (The Sardonyx Net)
Zorayas daughter of Zorashad (Night’s Master)
Narasen of Merh (Death’s Master)
Simmu aka Shell (Death’s Master)
R.M. Renfield (Dracula)

Also:
The whole cast of Oz
The whole cast of Vikings
The whole cast of Hannibal
The whole cast of Ripper Street
The whole cast of Copper

All my dear dead shows. Bad people doing bad things, mostly for the lose.
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Almost a week without an entry. During said week, that guy (I think you know the one I mean) has managed to do an amazing amount of damage, so possibly that's what's been throwing me off. I keep on wanting to write about things and then deciding there's no point, which really doesn't bode well for the future, does it? Because this shit is just bound to keep right on happening.

One good thing about that guy (I think you know the one I mean)'s tenure--for certain values of "good"--is that it's at least given me an excuse to send my Dad the long-pending email about his awful book and its fallout. With fascism literally sweeping the globe, as I observed, how can I stay angry with him about the way he chooses to remember things that happened a lifetime ago, in context? That said, I was pretty clear about why I'm not interested in discussing my reaction to Vol. 1 of his autobiography, let alone in reading Vol. 2. We can agree to disagree, but only if he understands that I think what he wrote about Mom remains reprehensible and that I will never condone it. I want to retain a relationship with him for Cal's sake, not to mention because he's the only father I'll ever have, but I refuse to hear that sort of shit about the one parent who stuck around during the period of my life where I really did need parenting. So he can take that or leave it, I guess; we'll see, either way.

At the moment, I'm trying to make a list of my favourite characters, something suggested to me by evewithanapple. It's hard, because I find it difficult to separate people from their relationships, which means that all these people come with other people attached; I also wanted to make them all women because she likes that and because it's an interesting challenge, but that then reminds me how seldom I run across the character traits that tweak me straight in the id in female characters generally, which is why my own characters so often start as cisswappings. And blah blah blah, we've all heard this shit before: I like monsters, I like monster-enablers, I like potential monsters, I like conflicted heroes at best but more often antiheroes--hell, even Matt Murdock's a bit of an asshole, just ask his friends. And that's what I like best about him, the fact that the "light inside" doesn't even vaguely begin to chase away his shadows.

(Speaking of which, Gotham got big points from Steve and I during their Winter Finale by A) having Oswald Cobblepot realize he might not have loved Ed Nygma before but definitely does now, in a "I will sacrifice my happiness for yours" sort of way, and B) managed to actually convince me of how Bruce Wayne's commitment to the no-kill rule might have happened, and why. David Mazouz continues to be one of the best Batmans I've seen, and he's never yet put the mask on--too bad he never would have made it into that guy (I think you know the one I mean)'s America, if today's standards had been applied earlier. Oh, the irony.

TV also makes bad decisions, though. See Outsiders Season Two's idea about killing Asa Farrell off in the opening episode, something so out of left field I initially thought it was a fantasy sequence--it's a move that fairly reeks of "contract re-negotiation goes badly for Joe Anderson, news at eleven," and it would have been soooo fucking easy to fix: yes, take Asa off the board for a while; who knows better how to disappear than him, and who's been more betrayed by the Mountain? But let him come back a year from now or more, and see how that goes. Damn, dudes.
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Earlier today, I found myself suddenly thinking about Alicia Witt, an actress who seems to have made a career out of playing universally dislikable female characters. She's played overt psychopaths since being cast as St. Alia the Knife in David Lynch's Dune at the age of eight; her turn in the sadly forgotten Rafal Zielinski movie Fun as a folie a deux spree-killer who meets her doppleganger/enabler at a California bus stop (based on both a play by James Bosley and the crime which inspired it) is truly chilling.

Since then, she's blown through parts like the smiling shark of a "D-girl" who flirts with offering Christopher a Hollywood alternative to Mob life on The Sopranos, an incredibly brief stint as Logan's partner on Law & Order: SVU as a brash "Mick/Wop" detective who manages to offend everyone she runs across, and a one-shot guest appearance on The Walking Dead as Negan acolyte Paula (this article gives a good summation of what Witt brought to the role: http://ew.com/article/2016/03/13/walking-dead-alicia-witt-paula-the-same-boat/).
Yes, she's apparently done comedy too--always a gap in my brain--but her particular note seems to be playing acerbic bitches with a high self-opinion and not a lot of patience for fools/life in general.

As I observed to a person on Facebook, she's a bit like "the Miguel Ferrer of redheads," aside from the fact that Ferrer was eventually celebrated for playing literally unrepentant assholes. Goes almost without saying how a facility for assholishness is never really something mainstream narrative likes to cheer on in females, though.

I'd build a whole show around Witt if I could, especially now I know she also plays the piano and writes songs, just like Robert Downey Jnr. or Jeff Goldblum, but like I said, chicks like her rarely get the showcase they deserve. Where's Alicia Witt's version of Tony Stark, Ian Malcolm or Mister Frost? Angela Bettis can still eat out on May, I guess, but she too most often gets stuck playing the character-part freaks, maybe because of that weird wandering eye. Whereas Witt is attractive in a supposedly acceptable way, and yet...and yet.

(Yes, I get that actresses of colour have to deal with this basically all the time, which is why I'm so glad Shonda Rhimes is as successful as she is. Viola Davis's recent observation that she eventually had to start turning down "five-minute parts" even if she thought they were likely to net her Oscar nominations is one I can absolutely identify with; my Mom's done her share of those, or probably more than. But aside from getting renewed, how well is The Catch actually paying out for Mireille Enos, another slightly off-putting redhead? I guess we'll have to wait until March to see.)

I suppose I stumbled onto this whole line of thought in part because Mom and I went to see Paul Verhoeven's Elle last night, which is organized entirely around a recently Oscar-nominated Best Actress turn by the blindingly talented Isabelle Huppert. Huppert plays Michelle LeBlanc, who we first meet literally in the throes of being raped by a home invader in a ski mask. We follow her through aftercare and the rest of her day, noting that she isn't responding "normally" to the trauma at all; Michelle, it turns out, is a woman whose entire life has been shaped by a neighbourhood killing spree conducted by her father, who seems to have suffered a psychotic break the year she was ten--even now, every time he comes up for parole all of France seems to go into a spasm of nostalgic hatred, causing random strangers to dump their garbage on Michelle or scream shit at her in the street. Thus, she's not exactly likely to go to the cops when something bad happens, for fear of them also blaming her for being his daughter.

The interesting thing about Elle is that although it's naturally a bit over the top, like all Verhoeven films, the overall effect is that it's nevertheless one of the only non-period pieces I've seen from him in which all the characters are recognizably effed up within normal human ranges of effed-up-ness. It's human, humane, empathetic, and yes--often quite funny, in a pitch-black farce sort of way; Michelle has very little self-censorship in her nature, stating at one point that "Shame is an emotion so weak it doesn't really keep anyone from doing anything." She attempts to seize control of the rape in much the same way she tries to seize control of everything in her life, which appears to have been one long flinch away from the very idea of victimization; after figuring out the rapist is her next-door neighbour, a guy she's been genuinely attracted to, she even briefly tries to integrate him into her life as a sort of kinky sidebar. But eventually, she figures out that having consensual sex with him is literally like fucking her Dad, which is seriously twisted, and offers herself up one more time right after denouncing him as the asshole hypocrite he is, perhaps assuming he'll kill her.

That that doesn't happen is--in many ways--a testament to her own realization that while she's been bad, she's not evil; she really is capable of love and friendship, of empathy, even if her acerbicness and commitment to as little cooperation with bullshit social niceties as possible can make her look (and feel) like the biggest bitch in the world. And since this is something I've often felt about myself, I guess that in the end, Elle confirms a theory I've held since I was a film critic--we respond best to emotional manipulation from films which reinforce our own world-view, not question it, or make US question it. It's a bit like my reaction to M. Night Shyamalan's Spilt, which continues to fall squarely in the "wound as superpower = hooray" camp, rather than the "ontersectional issues so bad I can't even" camp; I get that that's faily on my point, but that sort of failure is, I can only assume, also part of my nature, much like caring more about people than dogs. I know it. I own it.

TL; DR: Not for everyone, but some may find things here that they like--could be the tagline for Elle, could be the tagline for Alicia Witt. And on we go, probably racking up other universally dislkable characters/opinions with every move we make.
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Okay, so I am officially excused from jury duty, thank the Powers That Be, who in this case appear to be a very pleasant older lady with a strong Scots accent who works in the Toronto Courthouse's Sheriff's Office. "We don't send those naughty little summonses out, dear, so please, write us a letter next time," she told me; I had of course picked the very busiest time to show up and make my case for exclusion, which I apologized for profusely, addressing her as "ma'am" throughout. Turns out, it's a lot easier to do that when you actually respect the person you're dealing with. At any rate: sorted. On to the next disaster.

I did write that piece of Outsider fanfic, BTW, and posted it up on the AO3--"Lostie," which is mainly Asa Farrell thinking about all the stuff he learned during his ten years away "down there," and how little it turned out to matter. It's here, if you're interested (http://archiveofourown.org/works/9431606). Today, meanwhile, I'm trying to rough out the second part of "Samaritan"'s epilogue, in which--inevitably--Beecher can't resist the impulse to keep poking the bear, until Chris Keller appears out of seemingly nowhere to offer Vern an alternative method of revenge; the destined threesome, which must apparently occur in all versions of Oz, even the AUs. I think I can make it sort of fun, though, before moving on to the next re-archiving project--possibly "Two Lions," which I imported last night.

Ughhhh, I'm tired as hell. No apparent end to my snuffliness, which means every time I fall asleep my dreams are crowded and contradictory, doubly exhausting. I was up really late due to PMS, then slept in a bit, but it took me an hour plus to get back up to speed after that. More coffee may be in order.
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Well, it's been quite an amazing couple of days. I am...probably still low-grade ill, in that there has never yet been a moment where I went: "Oh thank God, I'm well again." Friday was a PA Day and I made the choice to stay off of TV/social media as much as possible in order to give as few clicks as I could to that guy (I think you know the guy I mean); on Saturday I couldn't attend the Women's March in Toronto, but I followed along and reblogged various things. Today, meanwhile, we get the fairly hilarious one-two punch of the White House straight-up lying about shit while accusing the press of lying about shit, then calling the result "alternative facts." It's been pointed out already that the main aim of this sort of fuckery is not to refute any one claim, so much, as to imply that all facts are unprovable by nature, so you might as well just agree that something is "true" because that guy (I think you know the one I mean) says so...or not. Holy fuck, we really are living in a dystopia.

I had friends who went down to Washington and didn't get stopped at the border, presumably because they lied cheerfully when asked if they were "pro-"that guy. I tried to rehearse a conversation along those lines in my head, since I'm going to have to go down to the States at least once this coming year, but kept glitching on the idea that the only thing I could possibly answer to "Are you 'pro-'that guy or 'anti-'that guy?" would be: "I'm Canadian," since that was what I ended up telling some dude I don't know who turned up on my Facebook page to argue with me about what I thought were two fairly innocuous statements I made last week. "I see you've chose your side," he said, to which I replied: "I'm Canadian, so both your sides mean equally little to me." So yeah, I'm sticking to that from now on, I think, until it's not true anymore.

On Friday Steve and i went to see M. Night Shyamalan's latest, Split, which is definitely not a definitive portrait of a person living with DID, but manages to be a very entertaining, weirdly moving film nonetheless, especially in its final scenes. I can elaborate if anyone's interested, but I'll tell you right now that I'm not interested in debating either Shyamalan's talent as a writer/director or his right to make up such a character, even if "most" of the representative portraits of people living with DID that we see in today's media are inaccurate and ableist. (Then again, I also don't think Buffalo Bill from Jonathan Demme's Silence of the Lambs is or was ever intended to be a transphobic representation of a trans character, so there ya go; I'm an asshole, yo de yo.)

The rest of the weekend's been spent not sleeping, watching other films, and finishing up Steve's first viewing of Daredevil Season Two. At least two other films I've seen thus far are totally worth talking about, but I need to get myself turned around in order to spend Monday telling people at the Sheriff's Office that I cannot possibly get tapped for jury duty, so I'm not sure I can format those reviews today. I also had an idea for a piece of Outsiders fanfiction (gen), which is exciting, in a weird way. So I'm going to jot those notes down, possibly format it, then keep working on my "real" stuff.

TL;DR: there's going to be a lot of this shit from now on, so get used to noting the daily stream of fake news coming from that guy (I think you know the one I mean)'s office, but not acknowledging and/or validating it. Four more years.

Back to it.
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Well, not being sick is pretty choice, gotta say. Routinely getting to sleep before 4:00 AM. Having a good reason to regularly leave the freaking house every day, and interact with people I respect. All of these are wonderful, I'm almost certain, but it feels like I haven't done them in years and years--more like fourteen days, my Mom recently pointed out to me. I am sick and fucking tired of being fucking sick and tired.

Anyhow. As you (probably) know, Bob, part of what I've been doing recently is transferring my old fanfiction to the Archive of Our Own, and thus being amused by/revelling in the things which apparently inspire me towards creativity, even if it's only of the interstitial sort. I'm finally on the Oz portion of the project, which is hilarious and horrifying in equal measure: we're talking about Tom Fontana's Oz rather than The Wizard of, obviously, that demented HBO soap opera about hard times while doin' hard time, with its endless roundelay of naked guys, sexual violence, canon-typical racism, manipulation (lit and fig), surreal social commentary, reflexive anti-authoritarianism and instiTUtionaliZAtion (say it with me now, kids). Oz was where I plunged into the deep end first, writing a 100,000-word plus novel straight out of the gate--"My Wife and My Dead Wife," which posits the potential events of Oz season three, put together at high speed over the post-season two hiatus. I haven't cracked it as yet, but I will, and given the way I've been reformatting the stuff I've transferred thus far, I'm sort of dreading it. It does hold up okay as a basic read, though.;)

One way or the other, going through my AO3 dashboard these days definitely reminds me of what seems to turn my crank--things which absolutely do not turn many other peoples', in the main. I like:

A) Terrible people doing terrible things.
B) Lying liars.
C) Violence.
D) Unreliable internal narration.
E) Arcane language.
F) Historicity.
G) Insults.
H) Consent issues. SEVERE consent issues. Holy shit, check out the consent issues, those consent issues are whack.
I) The people other people think are too ugly to fantasize about. Pretty fucking consistently.
J) Doing the same things over and over, expecting a different result.
K) Canonical deviation AUs, not straight-up AUs.
L) Mainly slash, some het, some OT3, but the default setting is situational bisexuality.
M) Redemption, little as that ever seems to happen in the stuff I consume or the stuff I write.

So: spent a lot of the last little while bingeing on Crave TV, because I can and I don't have the brainishness to do much else, which is how I was able to blaze my way through the first season of Outsiders, a truly odd Appalachian crime thriller show developed for WGN America that (at first glance) runs Justified through a Silver John filter. Magic realism abounds, but there's also a nasty sense of inevitability and down-the-holler bad teeth fatalism to it I find particularly compelling. Our scene is set in coal country, ie the town of Blackburg, Kentucky, at the foot of Shay Mountain; the Mountain is home to three extremely exclusive clans of freeholders, the Shays, Farrells and McClintocks, who live 5,000 miles up and rarely come down except to raid local supermarkets for shine-brewing yeast and power tools. They don't use money, can't read and speak a dialect that's influenced by Elizabethan English, though they also talk about "signs done in the Ruthark," and a lot of their ceremonial language sounded Welsh to me. ("Ged-Gedyah, cousin!" is the normal greeting.)

So...sort of like Vikings, sort of like hillbillies. Local people also think the Farrells can control the weather and curse people, two things which explain why Blackburg's own Sheriff Houghton goes so far out of his way to never go up the mountain if he can at all help it--his father was a mining company negotiator who tried to cut a deal with the Farrells during which two Farrells were killed, only to later be struck by lighting on his way home from work. People from "below" think of the Farrells and their subsidiary clans as freaks who barely live in the twentieth century, let alone the twenty-first, while the Farrells think "them below" are demons who deserve whatever they get. Strangely enough, this doesn't lead anywhere good, especially when another coal company comes to town offering free jobs to anybody who'll help them kick the Farrells off their mineral-rich home.

Our main character is Asa Farrell (British actor Joe Anderson, all shaggy hair, squint and bad teeth glower), who spent ten years out in the "real' world and now knows just enough about computers, the legal system and technology to psychologically manipulate the norms. He returned to the Mountain six months ago, only to find himself doubly an outcast, branded a cultural traitor by the people he still considers his only kin. Released from imprisonment just before the current Brenn'in (leader) Lady Ray Farrell is due to turn her staff over to her eldest son, "Big" Foster Farrell (David Morse), Asa finds himself caught up in the struggle between Big Foster's upstarts and the Mountain's council of elders; he also falls back into a weird, antagonistic three-way with G'Winn (Gillian Alexy), his former lover, and Big Foster's own son Li'l Foster (Ryan Hurst), once Asa's best friend, who were left behind to console each other when Asa took off for "the distractions of civilization."

Big Foster hates his mother but hates Asa even more, so most of Asa's plot has him trying to find ways to rationalize being allowed to stay, usually by finding ways to help Big Foster fight of the latest mining company incursions, but hopefully without things going where Big Foster always wants them to--towards guns, violence and blood.

One way or the other, you'll probably never find another show out there on which people swap moonshine for drone reprogramming and automatic weapons, whose characters' internal addictions range from Oxycodone to witch-cap, or one which shows a penniless guy courting a girl by offering her a wood-carving of a bear he made because "bears are big an' fierce, just like my love for you."

(This last relationship is really cute--Asa's relative of some sort Hasil Farrell (Kyle Gallner), a heavily tattooed young man in a kilt with Cavalier curls and a musketeer moustache, goes mooney-eyed over the girl working the cash register when he and his "cousins" come to town, a sweet lady named Sally-Anne (Christina Jackson) who comes from one of the only African-American families in town; it's a distinction he genuinely doesn't really understand, any more than he understands what TV is, where marshmallows come from, and whether or not the drug dealer he briefly befriends' significant other is a girl or a boy. [She seems trans to me, but Hasil eventually decides it doesn't matter.])

Fandom-wise, "Sasil" is the big ship, though I (of course) am interested primarily in either the OT3 vibes between Asa, G'Winn and Li'l Foster, the foe-yay between Asa and Big Foster, or G'Winn's internal wrangling over how best to serve the Mountain, her community and her own heart, divided as it is between three equally difficult men. She's a fun chick overall, especially in terms of being perfectly willing to marry Li'l Foster's father in order to take the clans' reins, then immediately start low-grade poisoning him to boil off his inherent shit-stirring instincts. But then again, even the comparatively "nicest" Farrells are apt to pull a knife on you if you keep poking them--these people shit in the woods, give birth in ditches and walk five miles before breakfast almost every day. As Houghton warns the coal company's main smiling shark, "community liaison" Haylie Grimes (Francie Swift), "if y'all really knew what you was dealin' with, y'all'd be runnin'."

Otherwise, I cut a deal yesterday to reprint "A Single Shadow Make" in an anthology called Daughters of Mary Shelley, which is cool, and I'm trying to bull my way into at least one of my outstanding pro pieces. I'm also almost done reposting "Samaritan," which turns out to be some truly insane amount of words long. I know I wanted to write an epilogue to it and only finished the first part; maybe I'll do the rest of it, if I can remember what the hell I was trying to say, by the end.

Okay, back to it.
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Now on Netflix, so I watched it. Interestingly, it too was directed by Gavin O'Connor (who directed The Accountant, and is best known otherwise for his MMA championship movie Warrior, in which Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy play brothers competing for the title). It's probably best known as a former Black List screenplay that later became the project that Lynn Ramsey got bounced off of within the first two weeks, Milcho Manchevski-on-Ravenous style, which meant that once again a female filmmaker had been shut out of doing a "big" Hollywood film, essentially for "being difficult"; a particular piss-off in context, given that star Natalie Portman had fought so hard to midwife it as a producer.

The film continued to have its share of birth-pangs--male lead Joel Edgerton was originally supposed to play the main villain, Bishop, but switched to playing "hero" Dan Frost instead (if you can even call him that, given he's at least as morally compromised as Jane and her husband Hammond); the Bishop role then went through at least four considerably higher-profile actors, all of whom quit because of scheduling conflicts, before Ewan MacGregor was finally cast. I'm interested to note that the one characteristic all of these actors share is a certain brand of movie-star good looks--neither of the men who fall in love with Jane is "handsome," per se; Hammond is a mainly good-intentioned but violent hulk, Dan a bit of a rumpled non-dude even in his better days, perfect for a character actor like Edgerton. This fits with the story note that Jane's own beauty is a minus in her life, not a plus; it's what causes men to fixate on and pursue her, to remember her even after seven years, to resent her loss as a commodity, while Bishop's own fatal glamour is a tool/weapon he uses expressly to put people off their guard, especially ones he's planning to tie to a bed and sell tickets for.

A little research soon reveals that O'Connor might have always made for a surprisingly good replacement for Ramsey, since I'd totally forgotten he's also the director of Tumbleweeds (1999), a female-centric indie road movie starring Janet McTeer I reviewed when I was still at eye Weekly. Plus he's an actor as well as a director, so he probably handled Portman fairly well in terms of what she wanted out of things. Similarly, Edgerton was eventually tapped to rewrite the script, something he's well-qualified to do, as demonstrated by queasily effective 2015 thriller The Gift. (Sidebar: Edgerton's always been an interesting presence as an actor, to me; often tarred with the same Yet Another Boring Fucking White Guy brush as Sam Worthington, he actually reminds me strikingly of Russell Crowe with his facial hair all grown out--and Dan is definitely an early Crowe role, one which Edgerton handles with the same no-nonsense strength Portman brings to Jane.)

First reaction: like a lot of the things critics shit on en masse, Jane Got a Gun actually a perfectly fine example of its chosen genre; like I told Steve, all I can think is that people might have been generally unhappy with a genre narrative in which the central character is a multiple rape survivor, because otherwise, it's got everything you could possibly want in a classic siege Western: tough-mindedness, grit, stark New Mexico landscapes, the overhanging post-Civil War lure and trauma of the past, the difficulty of retaining a capacity for empathy, love and forgiveness in an essentially lawless, violent world.

When we first meet Jane Hammond, she appears to be the prototypical frontiers wife: doing for herself and her daughter ably out in the literal middle of nowhere, occupying what we later learn is the local homestead built furthest away from "civilization," and deliberately so. Then her current husband Ham (Noah Emmerich) finally comes home, slumped low over the bridle of his horse; he's run into trouble in town, been recognized as a wanted fugitive pursued by a posse of equally bad men, four of whom he shot before being perforated by bullets in his turn. Jane's reaction to this news immediately tells us she's not exactly the stereotypical innocent that we were initially led to believe--she wrangles Ham into the house, undeterred by him being roughly twice her size, and immediate starts the process of removing as much of the lead in him as she can, then packing the wounds with gunpowder and setting them on fire.

Much like her husband, we eventually realize, Jane has a past: she rides first to her neighbor's to drop off her child, then straight to the house of her former fiance Dan Frost, war hero turned drunk, with whom she shares painful history--he's the metaphorical gun she first tries to recruit before being rebuffed and riding off to nearby Lullabye instead, where she invests her savings in the real thing plus as much ammunition as she can carry. We've already seen her side-eye the cathouse as she stalks by, collar buttoned high and her hair twisted tight underneath a neat little hat; moments later, she's pulled into an alley and threatened with rape by one of Lullabye's town drunks, Fitchum (Rodrigo Santoro), who gleefully reminds her how much the Bishop Boys will pay to repossess her, as well as the bounty on former gang member Hammond's head. As she lies there in the dust, stunned into traumatized silence, Dan--now as cleaned up as he's ever likely to get--comes up from behind, drawing on Fitchum; they argue for a minute over Jane's fate like she's just some sort of prize, a victim we expect Dan to "rescue." Seconds later, however, it's still-prone Jane who hauls out her gun and puts Fitchum in the dirt, holding it two-handed to shoot him straight up through the belly; not something she's done before, necessarily, but she doesn't hesitate a second after her initial frozen moment of doubt and fear...and she never will again.

Both revisionist and respectful, Jane Got a Gun never falls squarely into the category of mere payback for sexual assault past, though it does check some of the boxes--and in hindsight, it's more than possible that this was one of the things which alienated audiences and critics alike, back during the film's theatrical run. As eventually demonstrated, Jane has already survived being prostituted against her will by Bishop and his gang, who promised her safe passage to San Francisco only to take her straight to a tiny room and an endless line of customers instead; having embarked on this journey because she though Dan had died in the War, she was travelling with their daughter, who she now believes is dead.

Hammond, then part of the Boys, was attracted enough to her to want to marry her even after rescuing her from Bishop's rape factory, and she's repaid his kindness the only way she knew how: married him, had his child, made a life for them both. When Dan turned up later on, it ensues, she refused to apologize or explain, waiting for him to want to hear her side of the story himself; like everything else about her, the way in which Jane chooses to process her pain is entirely practical, possibly something else that puts people off her as a "worthy" protagonist--she isn't fragile enough, let alone forgiving enough, having settled into the idea that life is now "not a thing to be lived, but a thing to be endured." Is she a bad woman for not breaking, or for daring to take what comfort she can from her marriage, her child, her routine? Or is she a bad woman for not hesitating when given the opportunity to finally avenge herself, if only to permanently remove Bishop's lingering, poisonous influence from her life, Hammond's, that of her second child...and Dan's, too?

We see Jane before Bishop's betrayal and we see her after, and in both slices of time she's a woman who'd always rather act than not, rather make her own mistakes and pay for them later, rather stand than run, let alone crawl; what she can't fix she'll endure, right up until she's given the opportunity to do something a bit more effective. "They come to my house, whatever happens, I got to set my face to it," she explains to Dan, who she never does chide for all the time he's already spent hating Hammond, let alone the fact that he can't set that hate aside even now his rival's wounded and probably about to die. It's almost like she trusts that the Dan she once knew will eventually find his way to a place where he can ask for her story, after which he'll understand why that attitude is pretty amazingly selfish and put it aside, so they can get back to the important reddish work at hand.

But maybe audiences didn't like that part, either--not the fact that Dan rises to her expectations, or the fact that Jane doesn't rise the theirs, when given the chance to do the expect "heroic" thing and NOT plug Bishop full of holes.

Much like everything else about her, however, Jane's moral code always matches itself neatly to the job at hand, be that bread-making, amateur doctoring or stuffing paraffin-filled mason jars full of broken glass and nails, in pursuit of the definitive removal of threats to those she loves. When Bishop tries to cheat death by telling her her first-born daughter is still alive, she doesn't negotiate for the girl's whereabouts--she demands the information, backing those demands up with lead. Then she loads this loathsome pimp gunslinger's dead body onto a wagon along with those of the rest of his gang, drives them into town and collects the bounty for each corpse, so her reunited family can start over.

TL; DR: Natalie Portman is so ridiculously beautiful that we sometimes forget what she's capable of, a plot point Jane Got a Gun makes liberal use of, to fine effect. And again, when she and Ewan MacGregor finally get down to it, she doesn't flinch; the result is really sort of beautiful itself, in its own stark, hard-ass way.
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Gavin O'Connor's The Accountant has been called a prospective superhero franchise for neuroatypical people, which isn't completely inaccurate; the main character, played by Ben Affleck with great attention to body language and affective detail, is a man who currently calls himself Christian Wolff. Like the title suggests, he's a mathematical prodigy who specializes in forensic accounting, balancing the books and tracking money leaks for a great many criminal organizations, some of whom try to get rid of him afterwards (or, on occasion, halfway through). That's when the specialized training his PsyOps Colonel father gave him and his younger brother Braxton tends to click in, especially since Chris has always had a thing about "finishing."

Halfway through, I came to the conclusion that Colonel Dad actually had been a pretty "good" father in his own hard-ass way, since he definitely managed to give the adult version of Chris enough coping skills to negotiate his way successfully through a life many neurotypicals would find impossible to survive. Nevertheless, watching young Chris get the crap beaten out of him all around the world by various martial arts experts is at least as painful as watching adult Chris "relax" at the end of every day by blasting death metal and watching a flickering light for exactly one hour one minute while tenderizing his own calf muscles with a hardwood stick and allowing traumatic memories to wash over him in perfect emotional detail. It reminded me of how I had to train myself not to "feel" my own past mistakes anymore in order to simply move forward, not get caught in an endless loop of shame and rage--and wow, so I hope Cal doesn't process things the same way, though it's naturally impossible for me to tell if he does or doesn't.

The actual plot of The Accountant is a pleasantly odd mishmash of classic age Vertigo comic-book whackadoodliness. Chris end up in jail after he and his Dad foolishly decide to attend the funeral of his mother, who left them when Chris was in his early teens, and get into a funeral home brawl with her second family which leaves the Colonel dead. Chris gets thrown into a military prison, then transferred to a "normal" facility after the Army loan him out to the Treasury Department to check the numbers on a Mafia money laundering scheme, which is where he meets the old Mob accountant who'll be his mentor in the ways of cleaning dirty money (Jeffrey Tambor), as well as the first person to quiz him about facial expressions and vocal emphasis. ("Frustrated. You're frustrated." "You got it, son.") After this man is released without protection and murdered, Chris escapes, kills the Mob family who killed him, then sets about what's been his task ever since: analyzing his clients' ways of doing business from the inside, before turning them over to the Treasury Department via an agent he could have killed but didn't (J.K. Simmons, brilliant as usual).

Naturally, there are even more twists coming--Chris falls in what's probably a form of love with Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), the junior accountant who notices something wrong with the books at a robotics firm, after he's brought in the quantify exactly what she might have tripped across. The moment I knew I was on board with this particular version of the Magical Autistic Person trope--though really, Chris and his mostly unseen partner aren't really all that magical, in context--was when she told him her Dad thought Dogs Playing Poker was the height of art, to which Chris replies: "I like Dogs Playing Poker because dogs would never make bets on anything, so it's incongruous." I paused the DVD, went over and knocked on the bathroom door so I could tell Steve: "The Accountant is a real-life Drax the Destroyer." And then there's the other freelance assassin/security expert played by Jon Bernthal who we keep seeing in the movie's background, the guy brought in to deal with Dana and Chris after they get too deep into the mystery of where the money's coming from, rather than going to...

Anyhow. I'm annoyed to discover most critics slagged this one, though happy to note it has an audience rating of A at Rotten Tomatoes, as well as having made almost $150 million domestically. It deserves both.

Gotham, OTOH, starts like a cross between a Ring Lardner anecdote and a Twilight Zone episode. It's archaically pulpy, so much so that it's a big surprise when we see P.I. Eddie Mallard (Tommy Lee Jones) working on a Rubik's cube alone in his office ("I can't afford more modern toys," he tells his intemperate landlord, when pressed for the missing rent cheque). Still, this only makes sense, considering it was written and directed by Lloyd Fonvielle, who turns out to have also written the screen story for The Mummy (1999), the screenplays for The Bride (1985) and The Lords of Discipline (1983), and the idea for Good Morning Babylon (1987), in which two Italian stoneworkers end up coming to America and designing the sets for a section of D.W. Griffiths's Intolerance, constructing the Babylon whose ruins can still be found in the California desert outside of what used to be Hollywoodland.

So we begin with rich asshole Charlie Brand sitting alone in a bar, killing a bottle of scotch and explaining to the bartender how he manipulated Eddie into taking on a fairly insane case: find Charlie's ex-wife Rachel Carlyle Rand (Virginia Madsen), who Charlie says has been pursuing him around New York, and tell her to leave him alone. Problem is, as even Charlie admits, Rachel's been dead for the last ten years--drowned in a boating accident on her birthday and buried naked wearing only the jewels she'd extorted out of Charlie over the years in exchange for her sexual favors, at least until Charlie had her quietly dug up and said jewels repossessed. Now she's back, possibly pissed off by his cheapness or just jealous he's still alive, a malignly gorgeous vision in black, white and blonde--Madsen at the youngest I've ever seen her, skin perfect and with eyes like slightly protuberant blue jewels, her often-naked body flawlessly, juicily palpable.

At first, Eddie simply assumes this is some weird rich people game Charlie and Rachel are playing with each other, especially when he's first introduced to her directly: full daylight, with Charlie right across the street and Rachel coolly flirtatious, holding Eddie up for a drink "somewhere expensive" before she'll even deny she knows his client. "There's nothing fair about me, Eddie," she warns him. "I start the game off owning Boardwalk and Park Place, and everybody pays." Soon enough, however, she's approaching him through a sheet of street-steam at twilight to apologize for pretending to be hard-boiled, walking him home arm in arm; they pause to listen to a homeless man sing "Oh Danny Boy" over a trashcan fire and the camera simply plants itself over Madsen's face, watching her remember that's a song narrated by another dead woman, but one who at least died knowing she was loved.

Rachel Carlyle: If we stop right here, we'll have all the best of it straight. It will never get mixed up with anything else, and we'll just have the best of each other.
Eddie Mallard: You'll have to tell me your whole name, so I can say it to myself when I'm walking around.
Rachel Carlyle: Rachel Carlyle. Rachel Carlyle. I live at 330 Central Park West. Ah, no, no. See, it's already getting dumb and practical and stupid. You don't want my phone number. You just want to look at me. Look at your beautiful ghost, and see the way she's looking at you, and then you want to close your eyes, while she walks out of your life, and if she never comes back again, you won't care, because it's not about that. It's about what you saw when she looked at you, and the feel of her lips for the first time, and the scent of her and the way her hair felt, and the way she cried at that silly song. And you had the best of her, all the best of her.


Rachel is a humdinger of a ghost in all particulars--a Peter Straub spectre just as likely to put her arms through your window on a rainy night, Cathy from Wuthering Heights style, as she is to suddenly apparate you both up onto a too-high rooftop and dance a samba barefoot towards the edge, closer and closer, until she finally appears to go over. She's a pornographic vision lying naked in moonlight on the dusty floor of her former Park Avenue apartment, or a cold, drowned corpse suddenly discovered inside a walk-in fridge. And for all she's funny and likeable in sunlight, for all she obviously has her reasons, she's still a dead person, a fragment, something well aware of the polluting awfulness she trails behind her. "The dead can't lie, that's what I heard," Eddie asks a friendly Russian Orthodox priest he meets while wandering soul-sick in Central Park. "Is that true?" "Son," the father replies, "ghosts are ghosts. All they DO is lie."

Rachel Carlyle: Whatever they tell you about me is true. I'm worse than you can imagine. But don't ever say you didn't know.
Eddie Mallard: I don't know anything any more. I don't know what I'm doing.
Rachel Carlyle: You chose me. And you'll go on choosing me, as awful as it gets.
Eddie Mallard: Why will I do that?
Rachel Carlyle: Because you love me. Because YOU love ME.


Of the two things which particularly reminded me of sovay while watching Gotham, the first was a fairly amazing scene in which Eddie is suddenly woken in the middle of the night by an apparition of his dead grandfather, who tells him he's brought him that pirate sword Eddie always wanted. "Didn't anyone ever get it for you after I died?" the grandfather asks, to which Eddie replies: "I didn't want it from them, I wanted it from you. You told me you used to be a pirate." "Ah," the ghost replies, with great regret. "That...might not have been true. But here it is, Eddie, I brought it. Do you still want it?" "Yes," Eddie admits, weeping. "Don't take it," his grandfather warns him. The sword makes a reappearance later on, after Rachel really has her hooks in Eddie, at which point he tries to cut his own throat with it.

But the second is the loose OT3 relationship between Eddie, his friend-who's-a-girl Debbie (Denise Stephenson), who'd like to be more but knows she isn't likely to be, and their mutual friend Tim (Kevin Jarre), a reporter for the Post who seems to live his life as much out of time as Eddie does. Both of them are there to support Eddie throughout his ordeal, to harass him about his choice yet back him up in the clinch, and they're the people he ends up with when he's finally cut his way out of the double-cross Charlie and Rachel are trying to trap him in. "This works just as well as a noir as it does as a ghost story," I told Steve, wonderingly; like Sam Spade or Marlowe, Eddie always manages to keep enough of his self-preservation and hustler's instinct about him to realize when he's being maneuvred into a trap, sexual vampirism from beyond the grave or not. He'll emerge with scars, but he WILL emerge, leaving Rachel and Charlie behind, still doomed to have to deal with each other.
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So...I finally saw The Blackcoat's Daughter, otherwise known as February, aka Oz Perkins's first film--a possession story told backwards and sidelong, in hindsight, from the outside in. I had to do it online, streaming it from a site, which annoys me; I'd like to vote with my wallet as much as I can in these matters, and the fact that TBD has been caught up in some sort of release date hell ever since it did the festival circuit is hardly Perkins's fault--it's entirely possible it isn't actually anybody's fault, because sometimes that's just the way it goes. Yes, we CALL corporations "individuals" under the law; that doesn't mean all of them are sociopaths, necessarily. Here endeth the I Used To Be In This Industry (Sort Of) lesson.

At any rate. The real reason I'd have loved to see TBD by slightly less nefarious means is that my laptop screen is comparatively tiny and the film's chiaroscuro colour-scheme renders extraordinarily badly when reduced to a rectangle. Which actually counts, for once...I get that Perkins made the choice to render his main character's world mostly in shades of black, broken up with the very occasional contrast of dirty grey or bonemeal off-white (the snows of February, usually static, polluted, a mucky trod-through mess) versus a sudden here-and-there splash of red. And even in those cases, the red's also presented as submerged in shadow, clotted and indistinct, like he's riffing off of Thomas Harris (Have you ever seen blood in the moonlight, Will? It appears quite black.). This might be his way of trying to get across just how completely his protagonist's world-view has been altered, as though there's a filter always set across her eyes, rendering the familiar sinister. It's possible that's the way she wants to see things, at least, even if she doesn't.

Much like I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House, (which I also have to talk about, I know, I get that), TBD is told out of temporal sequence and with a remarkably slippy-slidey approach to who the most important person onscreen is at any given time. Eventually, we figure out that we may be watching the same person at two distinct points in her life, under two different names. In the first section of the film she is an obstacle, a pariah, a difficulty for those around her, a recent transfer student to a religiously-oriented boarding school in the middle of nowhere, mainly ignored unless she's doing things which slowly begin to turn her into a potential danger.

The heroine of that section thus becomes someone else entirely--Rose (Lucy Boynton), a well-established fellow student, older and glamorous, who spends most of her time thinking that she's allowed herself to get pregnant by her townie boyfriend. She stays behind deliberately over the February break, hoping to fix this situation, and ends up having to room with pale, odd Kat (Kiernan Shipka), whose parents promise to pick her up and simply don't. All Rose knows about Kat is that she plays the piano, performing a song obviously written by Elvis Perkins at the school's talent showcase the same day everybody else leaves; all she puts herself out to tell Kat is a spooky rumour that the two nun-like sisters left behind to look after them both were once discovered down in the furnace room, worshipping Satan. It's possible that this might give Kat ideas, but considering she already seems to have received a precognitive dream about her parents fate in the form of a tall, black-coated man showing her a wrecked car parked in the school's lot, maybe not. Maybe it's more something she takes as a sign, a clue that what she believes might be happening really is.

Like Kat, Joan (Emma Roberts) is first discovered wandering through a cold, unwelcoming world. Recently released from a mental hospital, she seems to own little more than an equally dark coat, a small bag and a bottle of pills she never takes. She is making her way back towards the school, very slowly, first on foot and then with the help of a couple who pick her up en route, travelling the same path towards the same anniversary, albeit for different reasons. Because it's the 21st century, we are at first cued to expect that affable, apparently devout Bill (James Remar) and his wife Linda (Lauren Holly), who barely speaks or acknowledges Joan's presence, are a prospective serial killer/sex abuser and his enabler. But this soon turns out not to be true--this girl he's decided to do good deeds for because she reminds him of a lost daughter is, quite possibly, the single worst person he could have chosen for that particular role. But neither of them are going to get what they want out of their interaction, anyhow.

In both the past and the present, a palpable sense of danger builds steadily throughout, resonating in Rose's dreams and visions, in Kat's weird behaviours, in Joan's driving hunger to reunite with something forcibly long-separated from her. What's that old line: Madness is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results? It quickly becomes clear that Joan wants to believe she can recapture what she's lost by retracing her own steps and visiting the same stations on her pilgrimage, making the same obeisances and performing the same sacrifices...but she can't. She never will. She is cast out, "saved" and damned at the same time, and the yearned-for reunion will never--can never--occur. "I can't even SEE you," she mourns, weeping in the snow, then turns away forever from the shadow of what she once shared, the bone-deep warmth and baffling freedom of no longer having to make choices, of acting only on another's whim, of having something lodged so deep inside you it's like you're the exact same person.

This, Perkins implies, is on possible version of what happens when a lonely enough person takes the Devil as their imaginary friend. And this is also what might happen after the priests have gone home, especially in an over-medicated, secular society: the exorcised person has to live the rest of their life with the result, apparently rating no post-traumatic therapy whatsoever, not even in terms of simply confirming that what she thinks happened actually happened.

It's a singularly pitiless vision, and Perkins pulls it off with full marks. I mean, Regan MacNeill at least got a kiss and a medal, along with what one can only assume was a merciful case of very specific amnesia (unless you keep with The Exorcist the TV series's version of events, that is, in which we realize she was always just pretending not to remember for the sake of everyone else around her). Kat/Rose, on the other hand, gets nothing, not even a lousy THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT t-shirt. While we, the audience, are left alone with her in the dark, the chill, with blood frozen stiff on our frost-bitten hands.

Boneless

Jan. 3rd, 2017 01:22 am
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2016's off with a bang, around my place. Yesterday I watched The Autopsy of Jane Doe, which was amazing up to a point, then left off in what I'd have to call an unsatisfying place; it didn't help that I know enough about history that when Emil Hirsch starts saying: "Hey, maybe she has a reduced waist because of corsetry...wait, what about Salem?" I immediately go: "People in Salem didn't WEAR corsets, just front-boards and stays at most--you're thinking about the 1890s, not the 1670s. So not, that's not it." The basic problem is that after a certain point, all we're sure about is that Jane Doe's body is an awful object leaking horror radiation and if it shows up on your table you should run, hide, burn the building down if you can; Steve called it "the Dionaea Corpse," which fits.

Tonight, OTOH, was Babak Anvari's Under the Shadow, which turns out to be just as great as everyone said it was--a tale of djinns and madness set during the Iran-Iraq war in which the political turns personal early on, focusing on living under religious fascism as being like a state of constant walking PTSD cut with fever, depression and wild hallucinations. The main character, Shideh, once wanted to be a doctor but her pre-Revolution dabblings in student activism have forever disqualified her from finishing her degree; she now spends her time at home in downtown Tehran, looking after her daughter and hiding from increasing aerial bombardment, and as things get worse she keeps forgetting basic stuff like hiding her VCR (with its entirely illegal Jane Fonda's Workout tape from tradespeople, or stopping to put on a head-scarf before she runs out into the street. Well worth the money I paid out to iTunes, at any rate.

So otherwise, I also found out something amazing the other day. Apparently no one knows what Ivar the Boneless died of, but when he died, he asked that his body be entombed on the edge of the land the Great Heathen Army had conquered, so that he could make it hard for anybody who wanted to invade the part of England he considered his. And two hundred plus years later, when William the Conqueror (or "Guillaume Bastard," as he was known at the time) crossed over from Normandy with his army, one of the first things he encountered was a mound he realized might be Ivar's tomb. So he had it broken open and found Ivar's body in there, still oddly undecayed, and then he made sure he burned that body before they went any further.

I was thinking about this within context of the TV show Vikings, because (spoiler alert) Ragnar Lothbrok finally died last week, turned over by his "friend" King Ecbert of Wessex to King Aelle, who promptly made him walk a gauntlet and then threw him in a pit full of snakes. As played out by Travis Fimmel, this is the last big show Ragnar can put on for posterity, his attempt to snatch posthumous victory from the jaws of defeat and re-seize control of his wyrd by dying in such a way as to inspire his sons to take revenge for him. On the show, Ragnar has been persona non grata since failing to re-take Paris because his brother Rollo turned on him, became Duke of Normandy and married Princess Gisla, with whom he's already had three kids (one of whom will obviously grow up to be William the Conqueror's great-great-great-grandfather, or whatever); he re-emerged from self-exile at the beginning of this season, and was naturally unable to inspire any of his sons to come to England with him except Ivar the Boneless, who will now become the keeper of Ragnar's legacy.

It's been interesting watching Ragnar tough-love Ivar into realizing that all his apparent weaknesses are strengths, especially since I still remember when Ragnar almost abandoned Ivar to die under a tree right after he was born, when it became obvious his deformity and infirmity might be the result of his mother's prophecy that if Ragnar had sex with her when she didn't want to, their next child would be a monster. That mother--Queen Aslaug, chilly and beautiful daughter of Brynhild and Sigurd, a powerful volva who could never quite forgive Ragnar for still being in love with his first wife Lagertha--has since died, leaving Ivar orphaned twice over; she was actually murdered by Lagertha, which means Ivar will have to put immediate revenge aside for long-range revenge if he wants to take advantage of Lagertha's personal army as he starts building up his forces. I guess we'll see how that turns out this week.

Ragnar: People will always underestimate you, and you must use that. Yet I say to you that the whole world will one day come to fear Ivar, the Boneless. Be ruthless.
Ivar: I wish I was not always so angry.
Ragnar: Why? Your anger will guide you.
Ivar: But I might have been happy.
Ragnar: Happiness is nothing, idiot.
Ivar: I know. I was only joking, idiot.


I was thinking about what I like most about Fimmel's consistently sidelong, teasing portrayal of Ragnar, a man literally out of myth, and I think it boils down to the fact that much like Odin--who he overtly identifies himself with, often citing the rumour that Odin was one of his line's ancestors--Ragnar is both a warrior and a Machiavel, coolly manipulating the people around him to get not so much what he immediately wants as what he perceives to be best for everybody in the long run. He sees the future and it fascinates him, even though he seems well aware he won't see any of the changes he may have caused come to fruition. He's a farmer who makes himself into an explorer, an Earl, a king, but a king in an age when "king" really still means "Very Big War Chief." He's a man of fate, and the people around him remark on it, but his guiding principle is an utter inability to be satisfied, even with the things and people he loves most; he's "loved by the gods," but he doesn't really believe the gods even exist. It makes total sense that his best friend is a semi-madman who thinks he's descended from Loki, or that his other best friend was a Christian monk he kidnapped from Lindisfarne who taught him Anglo-Saxon and enough about the Bible to fake his way through baptism so he could pretend to be dead and smuggle himself into Paris after sheer brute attacking strength failed. He literally lay there like Tom Sawyer at his own funeral, listening to Floki, Lagertha and Rollo pour out their love and hatred for him, then popped up out of the sarcophagus and stabbed a bishop to death. Nothing is ever enough.

The two quotes I'll always remember him for are: "Odin gave his eye for knowledge, but I would give much more," and this weirdly fatalistic but practical speech to his oldest son Bjorn: “I know it is hard for you to accept, but unhappiness is more common than happiness. Who told you you should be happy? You have come to an age where you must grow up and be responsible about such things. When I was your age, I had many friends. All are dead. Their happiness is neither here nor there.” Both clearly delineate the ways in which Vikings, for all its overt historicity, rings true to me as a version of the world I recognize from the Sagas--that latter speech in particular really is pure "There is no need to look, for it is just as you think; the leg is off." People on Vikings constantly act against their own self-interests in ways that are completely understandable, forgiving each other only as long as they think they need to, nursing grudges that flower into murder after years of apparent dormancy--they celebrate everything in blood. I'll miss Fimmel, but I think we'll probably see him a few times in the future, reaching out to Ivar through visions. Meanwhile, if the whole series doesn't end with the story I told at the start of this post being acted out, I'll be extremely disappointed.

(They should definitely re-cast Fimmel as William, too, once he's had a few years away to recuperate.)
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Next to last day of 2016 (thank God), and it snowed overnight, which may well be why my head feels like it's trying to kill me. I got maybe three hours of sleep, then woke up with this crunching, pounding sinus headache that still hasn't gone away; we don't have any more Tylenol Sinus, and Steve's going in to work today so I guess I'm going to have to ask him to get me some on his way. Cal's still asleep though, which is good--yesterday Steve Snr. came over and set his nook up again, giving him his Christmas present, a mixer through which everything can be run. So now he can play a video on his iPad, sing along using the microphone from an old karaoke machine, play accompaniment on his keyboard or his drum kit. All we have to do now is get him a mic stand and he'll really be off to the races.

The deadline I'm currently supposedly courting is fast approaching, but I feel like I can't do a goddamn thing with it--I feel blocked, stuck, fucked up beyond repair. The main slant of my work over the last little while, therefore, has lain in finally transferring my old fic from my equally old site (Segregation) to the AO3. Their template is wonderfully easy to use, which is good, because the stuff I'm on right now is the really, really old stuff--paragraph breaks in the middle of every fucking sentence, double slashes or asterisks used to imply italics, etc. It's truly painful to look at, and I'm definitely having to re-editing and -format as I go along just to make myself not look like a total moron. Soon enough I'll be into Oz, baby's first fandom, and that'll be fun fun FUN. Just thinking about trying to make "My Wife and My Dead Wife" look like anything other than a bunch of posts to a long-defunct email list sets my head hurting even more than it already does.

And what else, and what else: well, not much, I guess. Saw some movies, read some books. Watched my Facebook friends savage each other over ridiculous crap like whether or not people "should" mourn celebrities, or whether or not they're owed silence on subjects they aren't interested in. (Most recently, it's become "Why the fuck is everybody talking about Star Wars? An I the only person who doesn't care about Star Wars?" Why yes, you ARE; you're so special! Everybody thinks so, we're all just too hipsterish to admit it.) Every time I stumble across this sort of shit in the wild, the only thing I can ever hear in the back my head is Lily Tomlin bellowing: "WILL YOU PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT THAT CAAAAAAAKE?!?!" People like shit you don't, news at eleven; in other news, scrolling exists. Thank you, fuck on through.

Okay, back to it.
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I started off 2016 already on deadline, but overall, it hasn't been the largest of writing years for me. Part of that was definitely about Experimental Film's success--winning the Shirley Jackson and Sunburst Awards, doing due diligence in terms of interviews and other promotion, then having to think hard about What Comes Next (Nightcrawling, hopefully, along with other stuff); part of it was about travelling to Tasmania over January to see my Dad; part of it was sickness, and other stuff. Part of it, eventually, was Trump. Still is, really.

I'm trying to cultivate hope, though, because living like I'm under vague sentence of death isn't useful for me or anybody around me. And I'm trying to get the fuck back on track, not least because I owe somebody something by New Year's.

The stats, therefore:

"Little Ease," 11,630 words, for Children of Lovecraft (Ellen Datlow, ed.)
"Caligarism," 5,889 words, for The Madness of Dr. Caligari (Joe Pulver Snr., ed.)
"Sleep Hygiene," 6,500 words, for Nightmare's Realm (S.T. Joshi, ed.)
"Coffle," 16,422 words, for Dim Shores (Sam Cowan, ed.)
Pitch outline for Poison's Ghost
Pitch outline plus 30,000 words for Nightcrawling

Not nothing, then. Just not a lot.

Okay, back to it.
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A Stone In My Mouth

It feels death-like, long before it is. Silence in every pore;
the lungs, frozen solid; the breath, stopped.
Words dried up at the root—the sentence
hovers, unpronounced. A prophecy foretold.

So write your name down, fast, before you forget.
Carve it deep.
Let the dust fall where it will, gritty on the tongue,
before the river washes it away.
These letters, this sense—this cold grey tide
eddying away to nowhere.

You cannot speak of this, it whispers.
These are sacred matters, set in silence.
Better to fold it all away
like a napkin, a cerement. Pull the sheet up
over your head and knot the string,
a seed-pod awaiting burial, flowering, harvest.

Oh, you unlovely thing. You doll of mud.
You cast-off shell, skin stuffed with bones.
This is what we all come to, eventually—
God's promise, broken by disobedience.

We each carry a corpse with us, back-straddled.
We each owe one death, no more.
No less.

Pick out a rock, nothing soft or singular;
inscribe it, letter by letter, then fold
the whole into your tongue's centre-crease,
edge down, so speaking draws blood.
Each word will be a wound,
an invocation. A sacrifice, yourself to yourself:
nine days and nights on the tree,
twigs scattered beneath your high-hung heels,
an alphabet of dirt, of magic lies.

You make the grave your bed, pull
cold earth over. Wait for the bell to ring—
morning, and the call to rise.

You may not know your own name when you hear it
again, after all this time.
Spit out the stone, and check.
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...to October, and I still haven't done all that much in terms of content generation. Maybe this is because most people start mainlining horror movies during this month, as opposed to (say) what I do every goddamn day--I don't think it's overstating the case to claim I probably watch more horror than anything else, whether onscreen, on BluRay/DVD, On Demand or on Netflix. The other day I found a YouTube copy of the recent Turkish horror movie Baskin, watched it long enough to figure out it had no subtitles at all, shrugged, and kept on watching. (Later I ordered a copy because it has genuine power, though I'm fairly certain I didn't miss much in terms of dialogue.)

So yeah, I already watch a lot of horror, probably "too much," by most people's standards. I watch so much horror I often forget I've seen things at all, even if I sort of enjoyed them when I was inside of them; that's where the "Keep Watching?" Netflix queue comes in handy. And that's not even getting into all the horror I read, or the horror I research, pursue, ruminate on. Right now, I'm walking around with a compilation of historical exorcism accounts in my backpack that my father-in-law found in a church sale and bought because it reminded him of me. It's called Exorcism Through The Ages, edited and by an introduction by St. Elmo Nauman Jnr. Thus far, my favourite section is "Demonic Encounters, by Caesar of Heisterbach," a collection of really short, open-ended, oddly provoking Mediaeval German exorcism cases. They all have titles like "The Obstinate Girl to Whom the Devi Offered a Goose" or "Henry of Soest, the Farmer Caught up by a Devil in the Form of a Woman and Set Down in a Field," and though they're curt, they're surprisingly bloody; one case involves a demon spitting stinking, burning mucus on a nun, while others talk about how the Devil beat one woman until "[a]ll her limbs looked like human entrails," while another dragged a soldier along the pavement until "his face was in four pieces." Or then there's the convert who ate meat in a cellar, until a demon, "with God's permission, ...unable to do otherwise, seized the glutton and spread him out like a garment on the roof of the bell-tower."

The particularly weird part about all this is that these fragmentary and unsatisfying sketches remind me of nothing so much as Malachi Martin's Hostage to the Devil, my all-time favourite "nonfiction" book about possession. In Martin's stories, demons sort sidle up to you unannounced and start whispering to you--they present themselves as chance encounters, as friends ("Just...friends," the Gemini Killer might put it, in William Peter Blatty's criminally underrated Exorcist III: Legion). And this, in turn, is the way that the new TV series based on The Exorcist seems to be playing it as well, which intrigues and creeps me out. I mean, I WANT to be creeped out by it; I want it to be straight-up Blatty-esque, not some borderline Renny Harlin shit that's more interested in spectacle than the proverbial cold finger up the soul-spine. Thus far, I've mainly gotten my wish.

Anyhow. More to say about that, but I'm not feeling so great, so here I break. Feel free to ask me for details.
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Fifteen hours of sleep over Friday night/Saturday morning vs. no hours of sleep on Saturday night, and that's how things have gone ever since, basically. Spent the latter part of the weekend fighting off (hopefully) the same cold that laid Steve low, so badly he actually didn't go to work yesterday. We literally spent most of the day in bed, which was really nice at the time. Still not able to even think about sleep until 3:00 AM generally, though; that needs to change.

Things actually got bad enough at one part that I subscribed to The Insomnia Project, a podcast literally designed to bore people to sleep, and lay there next to Steve while piping it directly into my ears. It involves two people with hilariously soothing voices discussing "mundane subjects" in as detail-oriented a way as possible; recent episode subjects include yoga, pickling, quilting and the clarinet. The main problem is that the conversations which result are both occasionally interesting--causing a little bit of cognitive whiplash, in context--and increasingly funny, in a Saturday Night Live sketch sort of way.

My favourite so far is #61, which is mainly about reviewing various types of staplers. It begins with both hosts describing everything they keep on their desks, in excruciating detail, before moving on to trying to hammer out whether or not a Swingline stapler is the absolute best option, when it comes to sticking pieces of paper together. Later, they note with surprise that they've apparently been nominated for a Canadian comedy award, "which is sort of disappointing." Maybe it was my overall state of sleep-drunkenness, but that was the point at which I started to laugh and couldn't stop.

So, yeah: not much going on that's very useful, these last few days. I did watch the pilot episode of The Exorcist: The TV Series and was happy to find it suitably Blatty-esque, especially in philosophical terms. It probably bears further explanation, but I'm suddenly too tired to manage that; back to it.

Amended to add: Last night I ended up looking through my file of recently completed stories, because I have various anthologies coming out soon and wanted to reacquaint myself with what's coming down the pipe. One of them, "Sleep Hygiene," turned out to be good but utterly unfamiliar to me--I can barely remember writing it. Amusingly enough, it's about insomnia.
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Part of what I'm looking at with Nightcrawling is the fact that I've known at least two people who I once considered friends who disappeared inside a sudden onslaught of mental illness. In both cases, I eventually felt I had to detach myself from them, an action I felt like a blow--it seemed cowardly and cruel, which it probably was. It seemed like an unforgiveable betrayal, which it probably was as well.

In one case, the cause was schizophrenia, which the person in question had always feared, given he'd already watched his mother succumb to it at close range; I remember going to his house and finding her always sitting there in the dark, face swollen to the point of deformity from whatever drugs she was taking, chain-smoking endlessly. He was a a good-looking kid, delicate enough that I mistook him for a girl until I introduced him to somebody using the female variant of his name, and he quickly corrected me. Another friend later told me he'd shot through puberty and straight into the thick of his disease, becoming tall, hairy and grossly fat. I never had to see that, though, because I'd already cut myself away from him using sharp words, unkind observations. I made it so he wouldn't want to be with me anymore, so I could be elsewhere.

Bits of my other friend's illness have made it into various stories, particularly those starring Carraclough Devize. I'd known her since grade school--she and I actually met at Deer Park, sharing those horrible years before separating when I escaped into the alternative school system, then meeting again at City School. We drifted apart again when we got into different universities, and by the time I next saw her she'd begun to wrestle with manic depression, which first presented during her graduate studies and led to a full-blown episode while she was working south of the border, ending in her being committed to an American hospital, where she racked up enormous debt and was treated with drugs that damaged her heart. She's the person I once went to visit in the Clarke Institute for Mental Health, signing her out for a three-hour jaunt during which we couldn't see a movie because she had to get back early (she was under suicide watch). Once released, she settled into a routine: change prescriptions, adjust to the cocktail, feel better, stop taking it, have an episode, go back on until the meds stopped working, change prescriptions again, etc. Then she threw herself off a bridge, ending up in a wheelchair, and I stopped taking her calls.

The pain was a lot worse with my second friend. What hurt the most was that throughout the process, she kept claiming I was her best or only friend, hearkening back to Deer Park, to the impression I'd made on her. She thought I was brave, self-confident, honest--like Lawrence of Arabia; she'd tell the same anecdotes over and over, reminding me of when I'd blown up at her abusive, belittling mother on her behalf, screaming at her in her own kitchen, or when I'd confronted her stepfather for essentially saying she was functionally retarded just because she wanted to study physical education rather than a more academic subject. But the more she praised me, the more I knew I couldn't possibly be any of those things, most especially so because of how uncomfortable she was making me feel. So I cut her loose and I moved on, not looking back.

I understand now that that was self-protection in action, "self-care," an instinct which came directly out of my own issues, and I accept the consequences, even though I still consider scuttling both friendships one of the worst things I've ever done, the worst sins I've ever committed. God knows I've cut other friends loose since then, for similar reasons, and been far less divided about it; maybe it's because I knew exactly what I was doing, those times. Maybe it's because I had what I considered genuinely practical reasons for doing so, beyond a vague sense of "I just can't stand to be around you anymore, because you remind me how weak and context-dependent my own grasp on sanity can be."

One way or the other, however, I understand all too well what it is to feel so guilty you consider yourself forever stained, a social leper whose marks only become visible if you admit to them. And I know how it is to be listening to a story someone's telling about someone else while thinking: "But this is you, right? You're describing yourself. And I can't say anything about it, because you don't even get that yet. You wouldn't believe me, if I did."

So this is where things will start: with one person telling another about the awful thing they did when they were younger, how they loved someone who went insane and felt it like a betrayal, then betrayed them in turn--but seen through the eyes of the second person, the one increasingly unsure of how reliable a narrator the first person is. Thinking, more and more: This is YOUR story you're telling me, whether you know it or not. There's something wrong with you, and I want to help, but I don't know if I can. I don't know if that's even possible.

Back to it.
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So...Experimental Film just won the 2016 Sunburst Award for Best Adult Novel. Link here (http://www.cbc.ca/books/2016/09/gemma-files-wins-2016-sunburst-awardl.html).

Seriously, this has just been a really, really good year.
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Wwwwoooowwww. From April to September, in one fell swoop. What's been happening?

Basically, I got caught up in work, summer, taking care of Cal...all that. You may have heard that Experimental Film won the 2015 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel. You might remember I was fuck-a-struggling to complete "Coffle," the novella I owed Dim Shores; that's finally done, at least. Then, in the last days of August, I attended a fundraising gala at ChiZine's ChiSeries Reading Series, for which I was supposed to bring in and read a sample of my juvenilia--I chose my first official horror story ("Gore in the Woods," written when I was eleven) and what was probably my first-ever film review (Star Wars, written when I was nine, with truly execrable accompanying illustrations), both of which went over pretty well. Going through the stack, however, I tripped across the remnants of a novel I'd tried to write while in high school, and suddenly I had a new project.

Like Experimental Film, Nightcrawling is firmly rooted in personal history/trauma. Specifically, it deals with a time in my life I truly tried my best to forget entirely, my tenure at a particular house on St. Clair East near Mount Pleasant, during which I attended Deer Park School. Granted, I hadn't exactly been well-adjusted or socially accepted before getting to Deer Park, but that place marks the absolute nadir of my public school experience: social pariah-dom, coordinated bullying by fellow students and teachers alike, violence practiced on and by me. It's also marked by an enduring fascination with that part of Toronto's ravine system which runs under the St. Clair bridge. Naturally enough, all of this is going in the book, and the process of making notes on it is already fascinating and sort of awful in equal portions.

Yesterday, for example, I found myself thinking about how not to approach the bullying, which (even now) I can only see at a very steady remove, framed by my adult understanding of a situation that absolutely baffled me while I was moving through it. As Sandra Kasturi observes, the sort of bullying girls inflict on other girls is cruel in a way that's somewhat unique; boys will hurt you but then get bored and move on, while girls will devote what seems like amazing amounts of effort on finding out your vulnerabilities, then using them to destroy what you love most--"rip out your heart and shit on it," is Sandra's evocative phrase.

In hindsight, I can completely recognize the matrix this behaviour comes from: there's such a narrow, narrow range of allowable femininity, and popular girls are just as shaky inside that foundation as the rest of us, which is why they feel driven to make sure that anyone who falls outside that rubric is properly punished, made an example of: they can't leave us alone, because our very existence challenges the idea that there can be no exceptions to the unwritten rules of what girls are "supposed" to do, to like, to be. Within those standards, I was too tall, too developed, too smart, too unable to control myself; I have no doubt they were afraid of me sometimes, because I remember doing my level best to make them afraid of me, in hopes of being left alone. If I met me then, I'd probably be afraid of me too.

(This doesn't make me want to forgive anybody involved, so much, as it simply allows me to deal with the fallout. But the emotions that the act of merely thinking about these things summon up are still so raw that they amaze me. It definitely reminds me of the fact that all scars can be un-knitted, whether by scurvy or just by a situation which triggers "old tapes," making you flinch from threats that no longer exist. Nothing is ever "over.")

Anyhow: that's the seed. The framework itself is similar but different. Supernatural events may or may not be involved. I split myself into two equally unreliable narrators, and see where that takes me. The whole thing scares me, which is probably only fitting.

So yeah, those are the haps, partially. Cal is back at school and into his new schedule, which contains roughly twice as much music lessons as usual. The exciting development over the summer is that he's suddenly spurted ahead in terms of confirming music as his "language," his vocation--the last time we got to the Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music, he sat down at the piano in the front room and immediately started to sing "See the Light" from Tangled, working out the chords as he went along. Then he immediately did it again, so I could catch it on my iPhone. A day earlier, I'd watched Mom tear up while watching him harmonize with himself, playing back a video of the same song that he'd recorded earlier--again, he immediately repeated the performance so she could get it for Facebook. All of which gives me tentative hope that we may actually be able to get him a placement in a Catholic high school with both an arts program and a good multiple exceptionalities stream to support him on the academic crap as he moves towards age eighteen. He's a great guy, but the future's coming in fast, and he doesn't know enough yet to worry about it the way I do.

(I can't even think about him having his own Deer Park-style memories in future--I won't let myself, period fucking full stop. At least he has a diagnosis, and a support system; my mother loved me, but she had her own problems, and she was alone. Still, she did manage to violently reject one psychiatrist's suggestion I might be potentially schizophrenic, so that's good. I owe her a lot, and strive to hold no grudges.)

Okay, back to it.
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...in case anyone's interested:

April 29, 2016, 10:00 pm - 11:00 pm
May Contain Graphic Violence - Richmond A

April 30, 2016, 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Chizine Authors Reading - Oakridge

April 30, 2016, 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Northern Frights! - Aurora

April 30, 2016, 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
The Disappearance of the Beginning Middle and End - Markham B




This is at the same time as the Echo Women's Choir's Spring session dress rehearsal (Saturday, 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm) and performance (Sunday, 3:00 pm), so I'm going to be constantly in transit and probably pretty fucked up, which means that if we have an encounter and I seem spacey, that's why. See ya!
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