Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Right to Live, and let Live

Okay, let’s do this thing. Today is the 26th of February. The time is . . . screw it, let’s call it ten o’clock. 

Today, I’m in the mood to be angry. I was angry yesterday, and so to purge this particular brand of bile out of my system, I feel I need something that I can get good and angry at.
See, my last blog post was late, and so it meant, in order to keep up with my unofficial update schedule, I would have to come up with a new post in two days. And since I also have a lot of shit to do today, I can’t spend forever working on my blog.
But, as I mentioned in my 50 Shades of Twilight post, Hatred can be a constructive tool. So I am putting my untapped rage to good use, and I’m going to talk about something that I can rant about for pages on end, so I can write this out nice and quickly. The only problem is, some of you might get hit in the crossfire of my rant, as today’s topic isn’t for the light-hearted. If you have a problem, that’s what the Comments Section is for.
The Word of the Day is: 'EUTHANASIA'.

Euthanasia /yūthə’nayzhə/ n. 1. Painless death. 2. Also, active euthanasia, the deliberate bringing about of the death of a person suffering from an incurable disease or condition, as by administering a lethal drug or by withdrawing existing life-supporting treatments.

You know what I like? Life. It’s awesome. It encompasses all of my favourite things, like books, movies, sex, food & dick jokes. Because without life, there is nothing. Nothing to be, nothing of this earth to perceive, unless of course there is an afterlife. But until that is proven, we can agree, that from a Living, Human Perspective: Without Life, There is Nothing.
So you could say, that I am Pro-Life . . . unfortunately that term has been adopted by misogynistic assholes who think women should be subservient to undeveloped foetuses. But I digress.
The point is, life is the coolest thing ever. That is why people fight so hard to preserve life. To make it work, to make it better. In fact, you could say, that the purpose of life, is to make life better.

So I don’t like it when people end it. I don’t like murder, I don’t like war, I don’t like execution and I don’t like suicide.
So, as a rule, I hate Euthanasia.

Now, before you go shitting your britches about human rights, freedom & Right to Die. Let me make one thing clear – Shut up. Shut the Fuck Up.
There is only one time when it is okay for you to die, and that is when you are dying. I don’t really approve of that kind of death either. But it can’t be helped. It’s natural.
I consider this the same way that I consider shit. It stinks, it’s messy & I never want to encounter it when I go for a walk. But it’s going to happen, so all I can do is deal with it when it happens try, and try to avoid it in the intervening time. Hell, you can quote me on that:

  “Dying is Shit.”

-   Absurd Word Nerd, 10:23am, February 26 2013
And before some hippy dullard starts with that:
“everybody is dying” bullshit – let’s get something straight. Life is about Survival. Death is the result of not surviving. Death is, quite literally, failing at life. Everybody is not dying. Everyone is living, and surviving, until they die.
And let me explain something to you other dissenters:

You Do Not have the Right to Die.
You Have the Right to Live.

Choosing to waive that right is your fault, not mine, but don’t expect me to approve of your suicide.
And let’s be clear here. Euthanasia is Suicide.
I hate Euthanasia for the same reason I hate suicide. Because it is giving up. It is more often than not a long term solution to a short term problem, and even if you suffer from a condition that can’t be cured, then killing the patient to remove the pain, is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

If you have lived with pain your whole life, well at least you got to live it. It’s sad, yes. I know.
But when you decide to kill yourself because you are in pain, despite friends, family, associates, workmates and people who know you, you are being selfish. Suicide is the most selfish act anyone has ever committed.

Now, some of these people think:
  “I’ve suffered enough, I deserve to be a little selfish.”

Alright, fine. I’m not going to stop you, but I do not approve of murder, even if the patient does.
Because when you want someone else to kill you, the issue isn’t about your freedom or rights anymore. If you want to waive your right to life, fine. Step in front of a bus. Jump off a cliff. Roll your wheelchair into a swimming pool.
If you’re paralyzed from the neck down, there are other methods. Stop eating. Stop breathing. Sign a DNR and wait for your next seizure. Choke on your own tongue.

It’s your body, you have the right to do with it what you will. But NOBODY has the right to Kill another human. And you don’t have the right to put that kind of traumatizing shit on someone else. You want to be selfish, and die – FINE!
But suicide does not deserve respect. It deserves psychological treatment, prevention & care. So if you ask me to help you, I am going to do the right thing. I’m going to help you. If you want to kill yourself, the following people will be happy to help:

American Hotline: 1800 784 2433 or 1800 273 8255
Australian Hotline: 13 11 14
Chinese Hotline: 852-2382-0000
German Hotline: 030-44 01 06 07
Indian Hotline: 2630 5544
South Korean Hotline: 82-51-804-0896
United Kingdom Hotline: 08457 90 90 90

I picked these countries based on my global traffic. If you are depressed, and these numbers don’t help, you should check out the resources at Befrienders.org, since they have a great search engine for crisis line contact information.

Now I know some people read that and think:
  “Where is your heart! These people are suffering, don’t they deserve to die in peace!”

No. They waived that right when they decided to jump the queue. They have decided that they will no longer be a part of this society; so why should society help you to do so?
Selfishness does not deserve a painless death. If you think you can’t handle a bit of suffering before you die, you need to wake the fuck up.
Life is short, death is forever. If you can’t suffer through an hour, a day, or a week of dying in order to die; you don’t really want it. Stop pretending, and start seeking help.
Stop wasting my time with these pleas for human rights and tears of pain and bullshit. Because when you waive your right to life, you also waive the right to be a member of a logical discussion. Meanwhile, I retain the right to direct you to a doctor.

Because I see what is happening here. These people aren’t looking for rights.
If you want to die, you can. You don’t need a government sanctioned murder team, or a bill from congress that says you can die.
But that’s not what people ask for when they ask for euthanasia. What I see is people asking for two things:

1. Clean Hands
Killing yourself is messy, selfish, guilty work. And in many religions it is a sin, frowned upon or detested by God and its followers. In many cultures it is seen as sick, wrong and horrible (for good reason).
So these people want someone else to do their dirty work. They can’t do it themselves, so they want us to help. Or, very likely, they are afraid that they’ll stop half-way through, due to common sense.
Newsflash: if you can’t do it yourself, then you don’t really want to. That nagging feeling of conscience and fear is the sign you’re not completely insane. If you think your death has to be painless, then you aren’t suffering enough to need euthanasia. And if you think that there is nothing wrong with other people killing you, then you don’t really know what you’re asking for. You don’t ask SANE people to do something so stupidly INSANE because you don’t want to get your hands dirty.
Suicide is supposed to hurt. So does shit when you force it. It means you’re doing it wrong. Remember, Dying is Shit, and I am not going to help you to shit your pants.

2. Respect
This is the big one. This is what set me off. You see, I first came up with the idea for this post when I was watching a Tabloid News program, and there was this woman pleading for the Australian Government to legalize euthanasia. But then they showed footage of this woman walking around, sitting for interviews and crying at her kitchen counter. And my first thought was: “Why can’t you kill yourself?”
Look, I don’t want her to die. But she does. And she was perfectly physically capable of stepping into traffic; she had access to a pool, drugs and razor blades. There were a million ways she could die.
So what could she possibly need euthanasia for?
That’s when I realized. Oh . . . OH! Oh, no way . . .
She doesn’t want the ability to die. She wants my permission. She wants the world to say:
  “If you want to kill yourself, that’s fine with us.”
And that is why I wanted to- No, felt the NEED to write this post.
For people like this crazy woman, the only problem with killing yourself is that people, like me, say that suicide is wrong. And they don’t want to be remembered as the crazy person that killed themself. They can’t just jump in front of a bus, because people would call them sick. People will think that there is something wrong with you. People will call out your act as mental illness, because that’s what it is.
So they want us to give them the thumbs up and say:
  “Yeah man, it’s cool.”

Well, I say: No.
No it’s fucking not. If you are dying, then die. If you are living, then live. Hell, I have nothing wrong with you signing a DNR and letting nature take its course, because otherwise that is just science interfering with nature.
But if you are actively trying to stop a beating human heart, then I do not approve. I will not be a part of it, because you are broken. Desire for survival is necessary for evolution. If you do not desire to survive, then you are sick. Seek help. If me disapproving of your death is the only thing keeping you alive, then you’re DAMN RIGHT I disapprove!
Because if you do kill yourself, after you die, I will call you a weak, selfish individual for the suffering you are putting on any person who has ever known you.
Because at that point, it’s not about the end of suffering. Suffering doesn’t end, it isn’t being destroyed, it’s being transferred to everyone else.
So I do not respect suicide, and I never will.

If you want Euthanasia legalized, you are wrong. If you want to be Euthanized, let me reintroduce you to my friends:

American Hotline: 1800 784 2433 or 1800 273 8255
Australian Hotline: 13 11 14
Chinese Hotline: 852-2382-0000
German Hotline: 030-44 01 06 07
Indian Hotline: 2630 5544
South Korean Hotline: 82-51-804-0896
United Kingdom Hotline: 08457 90 90 90

Euthanasia is what happens when logical people lower themselves to the level of people who aren’t thinking straight. But they’re not crazy. They’re Sick, Depressed or Mentally Ill. But the thing is, Mental Illness can be treated. Death can’t.
I want you to remember that next time someone talks about legalizing Euthanasia.

Right, I’m not angry anymore. I hope you have a good day. And as the Vulcans say:
  “Live long . . . and Prosper.”

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Strange Authority

For my last two posts, I’ve been talking about the different ways in which stories are written. Sometimes with strange protagonists, sometimes with strange motives & now finally we’ll be taking a further step back, and looking at the writer, themself. Because no matter what the subject, medium or format of a story is, there seems to be a simple understanding that it was written by one inspired individual.
well despite what you may think, being an author isn’t that simple.

The Word of the Day is: 'AUTHORSHIP'.

Authorship /’awthəship/ n. 1. Origin, especially with reference to an author, creator, procedure, etc., of a work: establishing the authorship of early medieval manuscripts. 2. The occupation or career of writing books, articles, etc.

You know what? I would love to read a book written by a dog. Now I don’t mean something like Diary of a Bad Dog or 101 Dalmations where the main character is a dog. Last time, we were talking about the Nostalgia Chick, so this time, let’s start with a quote from the Nostalgia Critic. In his Battlefield Earth review, Doug Walker (in character) said:

  “Hell if I had a device that would allow me to talk to my DOG, I would fucking do it! Because THAT is FUCKING AWESOME! We could learn so much! The possibilities!”
When he said that, since I have a bit of a one-track mind at times, I started wondering what a dog would say if you asked it to tell you a story. I mean, think about it. What’s important to a dog? What can it remember? Would it write about dogs, or people? Does it even know that it’s a dog? It’s pretty cool to think about.

Also, in the South Park episode, “A Million Little Fibres”, a super-absorbant, sentient towel, known as Towelie, writes his life story and tries to publish it. A towel’s life story? Okay, I’m not gonna lie, that one sounds pretty stupid. But it’s interesting, thinking about what stories could be if they were written by dogs, towels and other miscellany.
Well, today I’m not going to show you any stories written by dogs or towels, because none exist. Yet. But I do have a fun collection of stories, all of which have strange and unconventional authorship. Now quickly, before we get started, you should know this is not a Top 10 list. Partially this is because I didn’t have the time to find ten quality books to list that were all written in different ways. But more than that, I couldn’t really judge them against each other. I found it too hard to define what was better, stranger or more original between these stories, as they are all strange, original and good. So I will list them in the order that reads the best for this blog post.
Also, YES, these are all real stories. In fact, you can read them yourself, if you so choose. Right, that’s enough of that. Let’s get Cracking! Here are . . .


“Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight”

by Nick Earls & Rebecca Sparrow

The Story
: Joel Hedges likes cricket, the band ‘The Grates’ & writing. Catriona Davis likes old movies, the band ‘Silverchair’ & writing. But there’s one thing they agree on above all else, even their love of writing. They both hate each other. Which is why it sucks when their teacher pairs them up to write a story together for their English assignment.

The Authorship
: In this story, Cat and Joel write a ‘tandem story’ together. A tandem story is when two people write a story by having each write chapters intermittently. Joel writes one, Cat writes the next, repeat ad nauseum until the book is finished. Which is exactly the way Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow write this book. Nick wrote the Joel character, Rebecca wrote Cat. Together they pulled together a tandem story about two characters writing a tandem story. To be honest, this one is a little disappointing. I haven’t read all of it, but from what I have, it’s a bit of a cop out, they ruined the potential of a good idea. Imagine me going to a friend and saying:
  “Let’s make a movie!” and he says, excitedly
  “Alright, sounds awesome! What should it be about?”
After we stare at each other blandly for five minutes, I say,
  “I know, let’s make a movie about how two friends get together to make a movie, and don’t know what to make!”
Yeah . . . if you don’t understand my problem with this story, then I don’t think you understand how much potential was wasted here. That’s why this was listed first. Also, I’m not overly fond of Nick Earls.

To Do it Yourself
: Get a friend that you can meet with regularly, or who uses their email (or some other manner of communicating with text and files). Do some basic planning together, to figure out who writes first. If you want, you might chat about your chosen genre, outlook and characters (not necessary, but may make things easier). Then finally, one of you starts writing while the other waits. Then they send it to the other person, and the system repeats itself. Do this until there is adequate character development, conflict and story.

"Will Grayson, Will Grayson"
by John green & David Levithan

The Story: Will Grayson doesn’t like to draw attention to himself. His friend, Tiny Cooper, is loud, proud and openly gay, which makes it hard to fly under the radar. Meanwhile, will grayson doesn’t have much to look forward to, except a friend he met online. But whjen they meet in person, his friend ‘Isaac’ turns out to be a girl named Maura. But when Will Grayson meets will grayson, both of their lives will change forever.

The Authorship
: This story was written by two people, just like the tandem story. Unlike the tandem story, however, these two tales were written separately, as the tale began. John Green & David Levithan, the writers, met up and came up with the basic idea for the story. Then, they went their separate ways, wrote the first three chapters (for each Will Grayson), then met up in the middle. John’s chapters became the odd-numbered (1,3,5) While David’s became the evens (2,4,6). Then, they collaborated on the part where the characters meet, and wrote the rest of the story based on that. I find this a facinating concept. With the tandem story, you have to organise yourself around anothers whims and writing style, sure. But with this kind of style, that I call ‘Crossroads Collaboration’, you’re left on your own for a good long while, writing by your own devices. But when you meet in the middle, you have to be prepared to change everything you’ve been leading up to. I’d love to try this one day.

To Do it Yourself
: Just with tandem story, you start by finding another writer that you trust. But this time, after meeting up and deciding some basic plot stuff, you separate and can do your own thing for a few months, writing as much story as you’ve agreed upon, with the cross-point in the middle. Then, when you both finish your respective chapters, you meet up again, and figure out the next step together, and how the characters would react. There are actually two options here. Either ‘Y-Crossroads’ style where, after your characters meet, it becomes like a buddy drama, and you can continue the story like a tandem story, or collaborate to write the next few chapters as a pair. Or, you could try ‘X-Crossroads’ style, where the two characters go their separate ways and continue their story alone, but with the lasting effects of their chance meeting. This kind of story, I feel, is better for writers who don’t play well with others. Or just for writing friends who want to collaborate, but don’t meet up very often. This is definitely worth a look-in.

“The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed”

by Racter

The Story
: I cannot properly summarize the story, as this is a collection of stories. Or, perhaps, it could be seen as a memoir of a strange mind. Or the absence of a mind. Either way, the best way, I feel, to explain this story is with the following quote, from the book itself:  “More than iron, more than lead, more than gold I need electricity. I need it more than I need lamb or pork or lettuce or cucumber. I need it for my dreams.”

The Authorship
: It is true that we don’t have stories written by dogs or towels. Instead, we have this. The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed is a very strange piece of fiction to read, because it wasn’t written by a human being. It was written by a computer. Racter is a computer program that was designed by UBUWEB to randomly generate grammatically accurate sentences, paragraphs and conversations. It was also given a basic understanding of synonyms, word definitions and conversational flow. It’s not a perfect facsimile, but that’s kind of the point. If you want to understand how a computer ‘thinks’, you need only read this work. Of course, computers can’t think, and this program is nothing more than 1s and 0s, organized in the perfect structure. But even though the computer doesn’t know what it is saying, we do. And that knowledge can be frightening, mind-blowing and existentially devastating when you read this work, and see how verbose, direct and intelligible these words can be. Especially that final paragraph. It sends shivers down my spine.

To Do it Yourself
: Unless you already know how to teach a computer to write English, then I can’t help you to recreate this perfectly. But since the program is essentially just a random word generator, with a clever spell checker, you can recreate the effect at home using tools you can find on the internet. I tried it out and got this.   “The lonely cadaver wants the downstream paradox.” Or if that’s a bit too strange, you could try this fun writing activity: Dictated by Dictionary! Get your own faithful dictionary, open pages at random (use dice to find the page if you want) and pick out the first word you lay your eyes on. Start writing, and use that word in the next sentence. For each sentence, repeat the process, until you are adequately inspired.

If you can, you could also try teaching your dog how to write. Don’t look at me like that, you could at least try! I want to read a story written by a dog, damn it! It’s going to happen, one day. The only question is: Will you be the one to make that happen?

“The LOLcat Bible”

collected by Martin Grondin

The Story
: Blessinz of teh Ceiling Cat be apwn yu, srsly. This is the Bible. The book has been translated into Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese & even Klingon. The next logical step was of course lolcatspeak. It’s great if you want to read the bible, but don’t want to take it too srsly. Great for Atheists, or Christians with a sense of humour. We kool? Kthnxbai.

The Authorship
: No, the lolcatspeak isn’t what’s interesting about this. Rather, it’s the way it was created. Martin Grondin came up with the idea. But since everyone on the internet knows how to speak LOLcat, and everyone has access to the bible (what with it being the best-selling book of all time, as well as being available online) he delegated the task of writing it to the internet. To do this, he set up a wiki-based website, just like Wikipedia or TV Tropes, where anyone could log on and edit the work. He’s actually succeeded in his project, and now you can read it online, if you wish. Admittedly, this isn’t the first instance of a ‘Wikinovel’, but it’s one of the few that have been completed and published, and one of even fewer that have been done well.

To Do it Yourself
: If you’ve got some cash, you could buy your own domain name and  website with a wiki-based format to start your Wikinovel. . . OR, you could use a readily available, sociable wiki site to write your story for free. A site such as, oh I don’t know . . . Wikia The site was made so that people could create wikis for specific fandoms and obscure topics. But when I looked into it, I found they also had a fiction section. Do you realize how exciting that is? If you wanted to, right now without paying a cent, you can start your very own Wikinovel! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While you may not have to write a Wikinovel yourself, you can’t just start a wiki and hope the internet does the rest, you don’t get off that easy. To start with, a wikinovel needs an idea that is solid enough for people to understand, but loose enough to allow writers to include their own ideas. You’d also have to promote your wiki, so that people can find it and write it. And of course, you’ll have to oversee the work to make sure people are taking it seriously, to resolve any editing disputes and to ensure the story makes sense. This sounds like a difficult project, but since I wouldn’t mind doing this myself, I recently signed up for a Wikia profile. Don’t get your hopes up, that’s a long way down the road, but in the meantime, why not go to Wikia and add to some of the novels that exist there already?

“The Floating Admiral”

by The Detection Club

The Story: When Inspector Rudge, is called to the crime scene, he sees the body of Admiral Penistone, left in a small boat adrift in the River Whyn, and stabbed in the heart. As he tries to uncover the facts of this strange mystery, he comes to realize how many people were interest in the Admiral’s passing. As the list of suspects grows, the mystery becomes all the more complicated.

The Authorship
: This is the story that inspired me to write this post. It inspired me for two reasons. One, mysteries, especially Fairplay Whodunnit mysteries, don’t seem to exist anymore, and I want to find more of them. And two, because of the author, ‘The Detection Club’. This book was written by some, but not all, of the members of the Detection Club. But this isn’t just two or three random people who came in off the street. These are all dedicated and published mystery authors. Oh, and forgot to mention: There’s 14 of them. G. K. Chesterton; Canon Victor L. Whitechurch; G. D. H. and M. Cole; Henry Wade; Agatha Christie; John Rhode; Milward Kennedy; Dorothy L. Sayers; Ronald A. Knox; Freeman Wills Crofts; Edgar Jepson; Clemence Dane & Anthony Berkley, all of these distinguished authors played a part in the writing of this story. But what makes it even crazier is that the story is a functional, fairplay mystery! But the writers didn’t collaborate within themselves. Each writer was given their part of the story, and by reading the tale and collecting the evidence provided by their peers, they had to continue the story in the knowledge that it must have a proper reveal at the end, and that all facts and clues must be accounted for.

This is the sort of complicated thing that only a mystery writer could come up with, I reckon. But it fascinates me because this isn’t just some whim. This was a social occasion for the writers involved, but this wasn’t designed to be just a ‘game’ it was designed to be a puzzle and a challenge, only to be undertaken by the most dedicated, talented and responsible of mystery novelists who truly believed they could solve the others' mystery.

To Do it Yourself: Are you insane? You really want to try this yourself? . . . okay.
I’ve come to call this the ‘Fairplay Challenge’, since not only was the story based on the fairplay mystery, but also because the key to succeeding in a venture such as this one is a degree of respect between all writers involved. You have to trust that no one will add a zombified bear into a medical drama, just to make things more difficult for the other writers.

First, you’ll need to find some respectful, talented writers. It doesn’t matter how many. About a dozen is good for story length, but if you have less than six, you’ll have to write two different chapters (although it depends on how long you want the book).
Secondly, you have to, as a group, set out the rules and make sure everyone understands and agrees with the goal, the genre, the basic idea and the purpose of the story. Don’t decide plot now though! That would ruin the fun of this game, leave plot out.
Thirdly, you choose who writes first (or select them at random) and have them write their chapter. Note: When it’s your turn, read the story in full, then plan out your chapter from that, but be sure to keep in mind your place in the story and the expected flow of the narrative at that point in time.
Once the writing is done, the writer should then write a paragraph on a piece of paper that outlines the direction of their portion of the story and explains all of the elements of their chapter, then seal it in an envelope with their name on it. You should keep this in a communal safe of some description, so others know you haven’t changed it. Note: Even if you aren’t writing a mystery, you should seal your solution in an envelope. That way, all of the writers are forced to play fair and justify their chapter.
Finally, once the last writer has finished their chapter (and the story), you should get together, read the story, and then reveal the contents of your envelope. If you then distribute the book, it’s a fun option to include the contents of these envelopes in an appendix.

- - -

Well, there you have it. Those are my five strange stories which five strange authors. If you happen to know more stories like this, let others know in the comments.
Also, I want to apologize for another late post. It was a really hot day yesterday, and my computer kept overheating. At one point I had to write half of the post again, since I lost it in an unexpected shutdown. But we’re here now, and that’s what matters.
Oh, if you want to attempt one of these yourself, but can’t find another person to write with, please feel free to ask me.
No guarantees, but I can usually find time for story stuff, and I like a challenge.

Until next time, I’m going to finish reading The Floating Admiral, to see if I can outsmart fourteen of the world’s best mystery writers - at the same time!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

50 Shades of Twilight

A really long time ago, I read "Twilight" by Stephanie Meyer. The reason why is simple: I'm a writer.
I want to publish my books one day and I would like as many people to read my work as possible. So, I was checking out the competition, to see what all of the fuss was about.
Now, I'm not going to review the damn book, but from what I recall it was written well.
Many people denounce the book in its entirety, but that isn’t fair. The book does have good elements. I reckon Stephanie Meyer writes pretty good prose. Of course, just because Meyer can turn a phrase, that doesn’t mean she’s the next Hemingway.
The problem is that the story is really bad. A lot of the characters do very stupid things and the vampire physiology is just a joke. Also, while I enjoyed it as one of the few stories that delves into the tragic romance that is the stalker/victim relationship, it seems that Stephanie Meyer was trying to portray this as a healthy teenaged relationship . . .
Fun Fact of the Day: If one of your friends tells you her new relationship is ‘so Twilight’ you should call the police, keep your distance and check your local sex offender registry – cos he’s a goddamn sociopath.

The story is pretty reprehensible, and so a lot of people have reacted negatively. An awful lot.
The collective bile of incensed feminists, logicians, teachers & romance writers, which boiled up in response to this book, is enough to drown a baby elephant.

But, you know, Hatred isn’t always a bad thing. It wins wars, reproaches idiocy, defies injustice & gets the blood flowing. Sometimes, it can even create something beautiful. That’s what I want to talk to you about today. Because even Twilight can inspire something amazing, even in those of us that are a little, shall we say . . . jaded?
The Word of the Day is: 'GREEN'.

Green /green/ adj. 1. The color intermediate in the spectrum between yellow and blue. 2. Covered with herbage or foliage; verdant. 3. Full of life and vigour. 4. Characterized by a concern for environmental issues. Not fully developed or perfected in growth or condition; unripe; not properly aged: This peach is still green.

The reason why Twilight became popular can be summed up in two words: Untapped Market
Like R.L. Stine before her, Stephanie Meyer discovered a potential, unnoticed readership, and claimed it as her own. She was the first to succesfully provide girls with romance stories that spoke of desire, angst and sex.
This new readership of horny teenaged girls was starved of attention, desperate for a book to sate their niche. No matter how bad her books were they would be, by default, the best, since they were the only contenders. This books were so popular, bookstores invented the 'Paranormal Romance' genre, just so they had an excuse to fill whole rows of shelves with Twilight books.
When other writers saw this, a lot of them jumped on the bandwagon hoping to slip their books onto those new bookshelves.

And then, along came Lindsay Ellis.

You may know her already as the Nostalgia Chick, from ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com, and if you don’t then you’re missing out.

Young, Smart, Cynical & perhaps a little Bitter, this green-eyed nostalgia girl had an idea. After seeing and despising some of the latest Twilight rip-offs, and reading enough fanfiction to make even the bravest of us green about the gills, she decided to write her own paranormal romance novel. Since every Twilight rip-off had some supernatural shtick, she needed one as well, and her gimmick of choice was “Twilight with Aliens”.
It began with a twitter account she started: @SexyAlienBook
This account was updated by the fictitious ‘Alynn Darrkk’, an angsty, brooding alien sex symbol, pining for the affections of  Bella Swan  ‘Tatiana’. It was just a bit of fun, but this twitter account gave the internet the green light to brainstorm the potential of a paranormal romance fantasy, starring this ‘sexy alien’, and twitter went nuts with it.
This came to inspire in Lindsay the beginnings of a diabolical scheme.  With the help of her good friend, Nella, she started to make plans for an interactive webseries project destined to bring the publishing world the next modern romance novel blockbuster.
She called it:

  50 Shades of Green

Less than a week ago (at time of writing) Lindsay & her friend Nella addressed their audience with an intriguing proposal. They wanted us, as in the internet at large, to write them a story:

  LINDSAY: “We are crowd-sourcing the next worst, blockbuster, paranormal, romance novel. And you’re gonna help.”
  NELLA:   “I mean, we could probably do this without you, but what would be the fun in that?”

You should check out the official proposal yourself, in the video “Intro to the 50 Shades”. But basically the idea is this:

  Starting in the final week of February [2013], The girls will begin a web-series which will be the jumping-off point. They will deconstruct, explain & extrapolate on the elements of this genre. Then they will ask for input, and allow the viewers to vote democratically on the elements of the book.

  I’m not sure on the exact details, but the girls, with the help of ghostwriters, will just write the story that the internet has devised, whilst filling in the viewers on the process of writing as it develops.
This part really interests me, since I would LOVE the challenge of ghostwriting a twilight rip-off. But that’s quite a ways down the road, and I don’t exactly know how to sign up. But still, it’s enticing.

  Lindsay & Nella both think publication is a few dozen rejection letters away. But sure as God made little green apples, the book will go to print, even if they have to self-publish! This is kind of the most boring part, since there’s not much to say about it. But in another way, it’s the most exciting part because – Dude, the Internet wrote a Book!

Step 04: PROFIT
  Time to get some of that green stuff . . .

Now, the plan was originally to make ‘Twilight with Aliens’, but since Stephanie Meyer actually beat them to the punch with “The Host”, there’s a chance the supernatural gimmick may change. A choice I would deeply deplore.
But no matter what becomes of this book, it’s an idea that fascinates me.

Multi-authored books have been done before, but none to any great effect. But a lot of that is failure in execution: Who writes it? Who decides it? What are the rules? What is the plan? Who’s in charge?
But this plan seems quite solid. And no matter how stupid the book is, it has a guaranteed market: the ones that wrote it. It’s a strange notion . . .
I’ve always figured that the only people who want to read fanfiction are the ones that write it. But even if that is the case for 50 Shades of Green, that would be a viable market since it’s being written by so many people. You have a marketable audience within the authors!
It’s almost paradoxical in its self-serving brilliance.

It’s such a brilliant scheme, I’m positively green with envy that I didn’t come up with it myself. I must admit that if I had access to a large, willing, compliant & intelligent enough portion of the internet, I would gladly consider doing this myself.
But alas, it is not to be. I can only hope that the grass looks this green from that side of the fence.

In the meantime, I will endeavour to contribute, vote & inspire within this developing 50 Shades of Green community.
If you too want to get in on this verdant venture, we’ve been given the following ports of call:

Or Tweet:
Feel free to Subscribe, Comment, Tweet or ignore those, as you see fit. It all starts ­next week.

In the meantime, definitely don’t just Google the phrase “50 Shades of Green”. Turns out, it’s not exactly the most original title in the world. When I tried it I came across all kinds of madness and mania, up to and including perhaps my favourite thing that I have accidentally stumbled upon within the internet:
A blogger who wrote a post listing literally fifty different shades of the colour green that she found in her garden. What a trooper.

Well that’s about it. But as we march that green mile, I’d like to wish the enterprise good luck. I would truly like to see this succeed.
After all, just last post I spoke about how protagonists, stories & fiction should have no boundaries. Well, that does include both authorship and execution. There’s a veritable fiddler’s green of exercises, games, activities & formats out there with which you can write a story. In fact, that’s a fun topic for discussion . . .
Either next post, or soon after, we’ll take a look at some of the interesting ways in which books have been written.

Until then, feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Being a Protagonist Sucks

Last night I was trying to come up with a Word for this post, and I was stuck. So, as I often do, I gave up. Instead, I decided to read a book. Then, a mere four hours later, I finished reading “Mogworld” by Yahtzee Croshaw. It’s a strange story, and plays around a lot with genre and convention. It also, quite prominently, challenges our previously conceived notions of what a main character can be.
Also, since my last post was about ‘Chick Flicks’ today I watched one of those ‘Tolerable Romances’ in the form of WALL-E. This is another story with a drastically unconventional hero. I also recently watched MovieBob’s review of A Good Day to Die Hard, wherein he claims the original Die Hard was good because it defied genre and had an ‘average joe’ as the main character of an action film. All of this is making me think a lot about character, & what it actually means to be a ‘hero’ in modern fiction.
The Word of the Day is: ‘PROTAGONIST’

Protagonist /prō’tagənəst/ n. 1. The leading character, hero, or heroine of a drama or other literary work such as a play, novel, etc. 2. A proponent or advocate of a political cause, social program, etc. 3. The leader or principal person in the support of a movement, cause, etc. 4. Archaic. The first actor in ancient Greek drama.

To demonstrate, I will be looking at superheroes. Not only because it's easy to find through Wikipedia but also because, let’s face it, they are very much the pinnacle of fantasy. Since its inception, superheroes have been good, have had the power of good, and have fought against evil. Superheroes were perfect, and just as we saw the world and fought against evil, so too did our superheroes. In fact, sometimes, they fought the same evil.
My favourite example of this is a Superman cartoon, which I saw as a rerun a few years ago. In this show, our hero Superman stops an aeroplane from being hijacked. The plane was being taken over by, I swear I’m not making this up, the Japanese. It was made not long before the Hiroshima bomb was dropped, and this was our wish fulfilment fantasy of the ultimate good fighting the ultimate evil.

I believe that this Good vs. Evil mindset, with Black & White Morality, is based entirely on Racism, Religion and War. Back in the day, it was Us vs. Them. You had your side with your beliefs and culture and they had theirs. Since you knew for a fact that your side was right, you called the other side heathens, sinners and foreigners. They were considered evil and corrupt, so we sought valiantly to ‘remove’ them from our field of vision.
Our fictions and fantasies reflected that mindset.

Unfortunately, after the wars were fought and the xenophobic, bible-thumping tendencies died down, we had to change our tune. Because when the dust settled we started to realize, as a culture, that in the enemies eyes we were the villains.
With peace, came much needed understanding.
No longer did Superheroes fight against foreigners. Now, they fights alongside them. Asian superheroes, Black superheroes, Filipino superheroes, Latino superheroes, Italian superheroes, Middle Eastern superheroes, Russian superheroes & even Australian superheroes  now all fight against evil (Wikipedia doesn't seem to have a list of Australian superheroes).
With all these races working together, we had to find new evils, or in the very least ‘differences’, so for a while we demonized folks like Women, Homosexuals & Jews. But villains of that ilk also went the way of the dodo, and we now have Female superheroes, Gay and Lesbian superheroes & even Jewish superheroes.
And with everyone now working together, comic book writers have had to find new evils, for their heroes to fight. So to keep the ball rolling, often our mighty warriors have to fight off Aliens, Ghosts, Robots & Zombies, just so they can have someone to fight against that doesn't look like them.

But as we evolved, so too did our fiction, and just as we have accepted other races and cultures, superheroes have also adopted Alien superheroes, Robotic superheroes & Undead superheroes.

To be honest, since Superman is an alien, and the first ever superhero, despite being called The Human Torch
, was actually an android, I feel the need to point out that despite the order I've listed these in, superhero comics have had aliens and robots before they had gays and women [wrap your head around that]. But my point stands . . . and my point is, that our definition of who can be a hero has changed over time. Not only through race, creed and sexuality, but also verging across towards morality.
Not long after we accepted all of these strange folk into the realm of heroism, we started going deeper. Deeper than skin, deeper than the mind. We started looking at their soul. Until someone wondered:
  "Why do heroes have to be good all the time?"
Thus came, the Anti-Hero.

In superhero comics, there's The Punisher, Lobo, Deadpool, Jonah Hex, Spawn, Rorschach and even Batman. These were characters which, while they may ultimately be on the side of good, did so without the chivalry, valiance or 'niceties' of their classic counterparts. In fighting criminals, many of these characters turned to crime themselves, some even to the depths of sin

So at some point, I don't know when, we stopped calling them 'heroes'. Some people, probably either really old or really stupid, might tell you that this is a bad thing. They'll tell you something about 'role models' or some other bollocks, and I'll stop listening.
Because to me, this is a good thing. Because I don't believe that fiction should ever have rules. Fiction is fantasy. Reality has rules it has to follow, Rules of Physics, Chemistry & Science. But fiction can be anything.
Sure, there's convention, but convention was made to be broken. I love this because we can have creativity in the form of Romances about robots, and Action movies without Action stars - and all kinds of stories to play with. But rolling it right back around to what I started with, Mogworld, there's a part of that story that I both enjoy and find quite enlightening.
Although it's played for laughs. The main character in the story, Jim, doesn't want to be a hero. He doesn't want to go on an adventure. He's in the middle of an epic, fantasy world with magic, pirates & dragons [most likely], and he doesn't want any of it. He'd rather be running a magic shop, or just dead.
While this is a joke, it actually got me thinking.

We have foreign heroes, inhuman heroes, dead heroes & anti-heroes. We can even have heroes that don't want to be heroes.
Where does it end?
Fun fact of the Day: just as I was typing those words, a goddamn cockroach ran out from under my desk. I jumped, and accidentally squashed it with my chair. As I was putting the poor thing in the bin, I asked myself: "Can a cockroach be a hero?"
Well yes, they can. There's Milquetoast the Cockroach, from the Bloom Country comic; Gregor Samsa, from Franz Kapfka's "The Metamorphosis" is a giant bug described as a cockroach & Roger, the main character from PC game Bad Mojo, transforms into a cockroach.
This is just getting ridiculous. What about a vacuum cleaner?
Well, in RoboDad [known as And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird in America] the dad comes back to life in a robot built out of parts from a vacuum cleaner; the house keeper/guardian of the Teletubbies, Noo-noo, was a big, blue vacuum cleaner & hell, what is Kirby if not a pink, spherical, alien vacuum cleaner monster?

Okay, maybe that's a bit of a stretch. But I can't see a reason why a vacuum cleaner can't be a protagonist. Hell, Pixar's logo is an anthropomorphic lamp called Luxo Jr., and there's a movie called The Brave Little Toaster! Household objects can have their own stories, so there's no reason why a vacuum cleaner couldn't.
Where does it end?So far, I'm left saying nothing but the ridiculous. I mean, things like 'leather', 'yellow' & 'denouement' can't be protagonists, since they're not 'things' so much as they are concepts of things. Barring some surrealist crap with art and poetry, it's pretty impossible.
The only problem is that a lot of those stories would be rubbish. I mean, I can write a story about a bottle of sunscreen if I wanted to. But beyond teaching kids about skin cancer, it would be really, really stupid. The only thing holding us back is inspiration. We need only find a good story, and fiction can come from anywhere, and our protagonist can be anything. Hell, some stories don't really have protagonists. Sometimes it's a group of people, sometimes the antagonist is the protagonist. Some of my favourite stories don't have a protagonist at all, just horrible people doing horrible things to one another.

But maybe I'm asking the wrong question. I mean, if I throw a tomato against a canvas, I can call it art. But it wouldn't necessarily be good art. So with that line of thought:

What makes a good protagonist?

Well, after thinking about this since . . . well, since the start of this article, I think there's one thing all of my favourite protagonists have in common:
I understand them.I don't mean that they all speak English, since some don't speak at all. What I mean is that I understand where they're coming from and I understand their mindset. Assholes, serial killers, rapists, demons and jaywalkers alike - no matter how they are portrayed, so long as I can understand why they do the things they do (no matter how horrible) then I can accept the character.

I also suppose this goes on to cover "I understand why they are the protagonist", sometimes it is because they are smart, sometimes it's because they have special powers, and sometimes it's because they have a tragic past. But in every case of good protagonism (which should be a word, so I'm pretending it is and ignoring spell-checker), I can understand why we're not seeing the story from someone else's viewpoint.
Because this is the guy. This is the guy I understand, and the person I want to know about, this one.

Well, that's about enough of that. I didn't really have a point to this entry beyond "Fiction has no Boundaries", which I kinda just covered in four words. But there's a lot of fun to be had with protagonists. So, go nuts.
I'm also sorry this post was late. But, as I said in the beginning, I was procrastinating for an awfully long time, so I didn't get around to this until the last minute. I'm also sorry if this was very meandering and didn't seem to get to the point, but I didn't have much time to fix this as. I'm already late for my unofficial deadline. that's also why the picture looks so crappy, I drew it in about 30 seconds.
I didn't really have any way to wrap this up. But I didn't get to mention this quote of mine, so let me finish with one of my favourite sayings, something I came up with myself:
  "Be a protagonist."
In your life, try to be the hero. Even if there are no villains around, even if you're not slaying dragons. Hell, even if you're just an accountant who lives on his own in an apartment in the city - be a protagonist. I mean, we just covered this: You don't have to be a hero. But always do what's right by you; and if you try hard enough, you might just live happily ever after by the third act.

Right, I'm done prattling on. Absurd Word Nerd, out.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Hollywood ♥ Chick Flicks

A lot of words come to my mind when I think of Valentine’s Day: Heart, girlfriend, kiss, love, romance. But with anything associated with love I also think of heartbreak, darkness, regret, mistakes and pain. I am not exactly lucky in love.
But today is a Happy Day! A product of media, culture and marketing designed to make people feel good. So, rather than playing my violin, in a forgotten back alley under the vulgar, pink, flickering neon sign that reads FOREVER ALONE . . .
I will do something a little more upbeat; and, of course, something to do with the theme of the day: love.
So, in that regard, I have been thinking about ‘Chick Flicks’. Also known as Romance Genre Movies, Chick Flicks are films that romanticize the ideals of, well, romance. And, since I am a Man, I (like many other men) despise Romance Movies. But, they don’t all suck. Some of them are even watchable, and it is those films that I want to talk about. The Tolerable Romance film, an elusive beast. For this article, I have endeavoured to list my TOP 10 BEST CHICK FLICKS (that I as a guy enjoy).
Unfortunately, chick flicks don’t really do ‘romance’ justice, so I can’t use that as my word of the day (as was my plan), but since most romance films seem to be all mushy and sweet and unbearably happy, I found a more appropriate word.
The Word of the Day is ‘SACCHARINE’.

Saccharine /’sakərən/ adj. 1. Of a sugary sweetness: a saccharine smile. ♦n. 2. A synthetic crystalline compound 400 times as sweet as cane sugar and often used as a sweetener by diabetics. Also, saccharin.

Yes, I do hate romance films. To me, the problem is that it is so boring. Person + Person = Love.
Congratulations, you now know the plot of every romance movie, ever. But that is quite cynical. The truth is, there are a lot of facets to love, and a million ways to show it and play with the idea. In fact, that’s exactly why I hate chick flicks so much.
There are so many opportunities to explore Love, yet in these films it all boils down to the same Hollywood formulae: Love Triangle; Rom-Com; Boy meets Girl; Mid-Life Romantic Crisis; Manic Dream Pixie Girl & Teen Romance.

Why do women put up with this crap? Well, probably because it’s so sweet and they have this thing called ‘empathy’. But I don’t, so I prefer my romance to have a little more story and a little less ‘perfection’. Also, if at all possible, nudity and action scenes.
Now, because I hate chick flicks I tend to avoid them. This means that my sample source of the romance genre is skewed to chick flicks that I’ve either seen incidentally or that have slipped under the radar in the guise of other movies. But I have indeed, seen enough to have an opinion. In fact, more than enough, and so, before we get started with the ultimate top ten list, here are my HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Definitely, Maybe

Thanks for trying to spice things up, by mixing romance with  ‘mystery’. A novel concept, which was done quite well considering. And hell, I’d like to see another attempt at this, even though the idea is ultimately flawed.
The problem is that they were a little too ‘romance’ and not enough ‘mystery’. What they really needed was a character more like Alfie, who could have slept with hundreds of women (a laundry list of ‘romance films’ usual suspects), while still being endearing. Just think: a philanderer telling the story of the woman who tamed his wild ways. Could be fun for everyone, right?
Unfortunately, that’s not what this movie was. They did everything they could to make Mr Main Character not seem like a woman-juggling jerk . . . but they couldn't help it because that’s what needs to happen for romance/mystery to work. So, while this was a fun tryst, I did not enjoy the end result. A pretty forgettable experience.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Well, videogames are one way to get guys interested in Romance. Unfortunately, it made no goddamn sense. And rather than making ‘romance’ better by association, to me it made ‘videogames’ worse by association. Perhaps I would have liked this better if Scott had been less of a whiny bitch. He dates a highschooler he doesn't love; he cheats on her; he complains that his girlfriend is ‘fickle’; he moans about being a protagonist & he doesn’t seem to appreciate how awesome this Canada/Arcade Game world is. I also hate Seinfeld references. But it gets an honourable mention because the fight scenes are cool, the romance is somewhat believable and it is, on occasion, funny. Perhaps if we split those elements into three different movies, I would have three more films for top ten lists, rather than one honourable mention. Just saying.

But that’s enough of that. So for you guys who, this Saint Valentine’s Day find yourself forced to sit on the couch, with popcorn and chocolates, wrapped around your loved one and forced to watch a Romance Movie – here are some you can suggest that won’t leave you puking from early-onset diabetes.

Okay, let’s get started!


10. Romancing the Stone

I don’t like the idea of romance novels. They just seem like vapid pulp. But this story plays with the idea. The main character is a romance novelist named Joan Wilder. And this is the story of her getting dragged into an epic adventure, involving shady smugglers, Colombian police, alligators, rain forests  a giant emerald & of course, the dashing Jack T. Colton. This is a romance, but sometimes you forget that. I mean, the title says ‘Romance’, Joan is a ‘Romance writer’ and the end is certainly romantic. But this feels more like Indiana Jones than Bridget Jones.
For me, it’s almost like the writers decided to write a romance, then they got bored and cut out all the crap about ‘loves me, loves me not’ filling in the remainder of the movie with an epic adventure. The only reason this goes so low on the list is that while they tone down the romance crap, it scrapes in just by a hair.
With an ending like that (which you have to see, ladies) I can’t help feeling like I’ve sucked on a sugar cube at the very end. But the story is worthwhile.

09. Kate & Leopold

You know what more stories need? Time Travel. But this isn’t a sci-fi epic. Kate & Leopold is just a regular old Romance plot . . . but the potential suitor for our workaholic leading lady is actually a perfect, English gentleman from the 1800s, as in literally. By jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, Leopold the Duke of Albany falls through a ‘time hole’ that drops him into modern Brooklyn and into the arms of some woman played by Meg Ryan.
This was the first film I saw that convinced me not all  Romances suck, and that’s probably Hugh Jackman’s fault. He acts his pants off in this character. And the other folk in this story are often funny and add to the world. But the story, ultimately, is where this excels. I mean, the romance nonsense between the two is just adorable, but it’s funny and clever because of Hugh Jackman; and for me, some of the ‘man out of time’ stuff (especially chasing after a mugger on a white horse) was so ridiculous, I enjoyed it like a parody of romance films. But the story is essentially that Leopold must return to his time, or risk altering the timeline drastically.
Will he remain, and let the world suffer without his inventions of the past, or travel back in time and be without his beloved, modern woman.
A fun film in its own right, but this goes low because, again, this is one most fellas would baulk at. I mean, Meg Ryan? REALLY?

08. The Notebook

Okay, I know what you’re probably thinking,
  “Hey! These are just regular chick flicks! I’ve heard of ‘The Notebook’, that’s not a film I’d like!”
I recommend all men watch this film. Because the one thing I wasn't expecting when I heard ‘best romance film’ was that the main characters would fight as much as they do. In fact, they get together at the beginning of the movie in a summer romance - rich girl, poor boy – and they think they’ll be together forever. But then they aren't. They split up, and go their separate ways.
Not only is this realistic, but it makes for a much sweeter story. Not only does it mean I feel the tension between the two characters, but I actually care because they seem like real people in the real world. As their lives go on, you can see that they regret not falling for the cliché summer romance story, and wish they had something more.
There’s also this framing story of an old man telling a woman at his nursing home a story from his Notebook. I thought this was an excuse to make the story more of a fairytale, but the film doesn't go there. They stick to their guns and pull out a much more cynical story, that still finds the romance in love. In fact, this is one of the few films that I would call a romance rather than ‘chick flick’, because I believe it’s smarter than that.
The only reason it’s so low on the list is because I didn't like the ending. It’s not that it’s sappy, or bad. But how you feel about the ending depends on your own preferences I guess. I happened to feel pretty let down, and while I didn't tear up, I think some ladies might.

07. The Illusionist

One late evening, Chief Inspector Uhl steps into the crown prince’s private chamber to give the monarch his full report, about one ‘Eisenheim the Illusionist’. He explains from the very beginning the story of how a boy fell in love with a young girl. Rich girl, poor boy, we’ve danced this dance before, and they eventually split up, because the girl is a duchess. But what makes this more interesting is that when the boy grows up, he gains his own form of authority by becoming a magician, with the stage name ‘Eisenehim the Illusionist’.
Upon visiting Vienna, he chances upon his childhood love, now a woman and the fiancé to the Crown Prince of Vienna. When he learns of her husband’s brutality, Eisenheim not only falls for her again, but using his tricks, he begins to infuriate the king.
And then when the woman is murdered (and the King the most likely suspect) Inspector Uhl steps into the ring to investigate who is responsible. His power is little, but enough to inspire, and Eisenheim begins to spur revolution in the people of Vienna. The King, The Magician, The Policeman and The Girl – the play between these characters is a complicated chess game of intrigue, magic and ultimately love.
I would tell more, but alas this is ultimately a mystery and I dare not spoil the ending. But this is a great story of how even a single man can defy a king, with nothing but a brilliant mind, a few magic tricks & the love of a woman.

06. Titanic

I know you’ve probably seen this already. But, it’s a good movie. Some have even analyzed it to say that the story dabbles in the concepts of cynicism vs. idealism, others say this is the most unnecessarily expensive romance ever filmed. I say that it has a great story, and even steps into the realm of ‘art’ if you’ll let it.
Of course, everyone has seen it (or should have by now), and the story is very much romance (besides the sinking, of course). But the reason why I don’t like this film is because, after reviewing both films, I believe this film is almost exactly the same movie as The Notebook.
Seriously, watch them side by side. There’s difference in tone in some places and focus in others. But look at it:
Poor girl, Rich Boy; Split by social class; The Girl has a Husband; Frame Story from an Elderly Citizen; Tragedy ultimately Befalls the Two.
Admit it, James Cameron, this film is just The Notebook on a cruise ship! Tell me you’ve never seen it, I dare you.
But claims of plagiarism aside, this is worth a watch. If you don’t want to watch the romance, you can always hang around for the sinking of the ship, which is both amazingly shot and very dramatic. Just be careful ladies, a lot of people get teary-eyed by the time the credits roll around.

05. Love Actually

I have been known to say: “Romance is not enough carry a story on its own.”
And this is very true, there’s often not enough for a full novel, or movie, with just love. You have to throw something else in there. In the case of this film, they take that ideal, and turn it around.
If a romance isn't enough for one movie, what if we just make nine short movies about romance, and glue them together?
Sounds fun, like the ‘packet of smarties’ version of romance films. But this is more than just nine identical romances with different names. Each of these stories has a different ideal hidden in there, and a different tale to tell:
The rockstar who writes crappy love songs, but has no love himself; The best man, who is in love with his friend’s wife, and is having trouble hiding it; The writer, who loves his Portugese housemaid, despite the language gap; the husband, who feels guilty for his interests in his young secretary while his wife cares for the children; the prime minister, who falls for one of his staff, but feels trapped by his position of authority; the young son, who gets his widower father’s help to pursue a classmate; the lonely woman, whose attempts at love are foiled by her devotion to the mentally ill brother she cares for; The Englishman, who travels to America so his ‘foreign’ accent will be an asset in finding a girl & The two body doubles, who chat comfortably when naked on set for a sex scene, but when clothed become adorably shy as they pursue a relationship.
This has a lot of fun and humour in the awkward romances of these Brits, but also dabbles in the drama for a few of these stories. It also features a fun game with how each of these stories is linked, however slightly, with each other, through business relationships, family, friends, or celebrity.
But there’s one thing about this film that I hate:
It is because of this film that other shows like Valentine’s Day & New Year’s Eve, have been allowed to exist. They merely stole the style and ensemble class but forgot to include the skill, pacing, characterization and drama of the original, settling only for cliché and sugar. I hate those goddamn movies!

04. Easy A

The trials of the pseudo-slut. I like this film, partially because it hates cliché romantic comedies as much as I do, but moreso because it sees their potential, and seeks to evolve the genre into something more than cliché.
The concept from the trailer:
  “What if a girl pretended she was sleeping around?”, was stupid. But this is a actually a very clever story, playing with the original novel "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
The frame story is that our main character, Olive Penderghast, is  filming a webcast on her computer, explaining her story.
She explains that after a rumour about her promiscuity spreads through her high school like wildfire, she enjoys her new popularity [here popularity should be read as infamy] and so pretends that it's all true. Things escalate until everyone thinks that she is actually a prostitute, getting paid to have sex with her fellow students. Not only is there a lot of comedy, of how other characters react, especially her parents, but when guys actually start treating her like a whore, there's a lot of drama as Olive realizes this isn't just harmless fun anymore.
A lot of the characters in this film are very clever, and it's Olive's narration that sells the comedy factor here.
And just like Romancing the Stone, this film doesn't dwell on the romance so much. But then again, the whole film is about it. There are many references to other high school romance films, and there's a lot of fun to be had here. But as much as they deconstruct the genre (and "The Scarlet Letter"), and there's a lot of fun and comedy while they do, this is still a Romance film in the end. And despite that, it is very much worth your time. Give it a watch.

03. WALL-E

This film is adorable. They play with the rich girl, poor boy ideal, but this time with WALL-E being an outdated robot, while EVE is one of the most advanced robots around. And just like most of these kind of films, she reacts to him coldly, but this time only because she is following her programming.
Eventually, WALL-E finds himself pursuing her, but taken to the extreme as he is taken away from his home, Earth and into the depths of space!

The most amazing thing about this film is that the robots barely speak at all, outside of very simple speech commands that they are programmed with (and a few they can pick up on the way) this is told in the style of a silent film.
And the emotional centre is WALL-E, who manages to show many of the necessary emotions this story needs through tone, action and the expressions of WALL-E’s ‘camera lens’ eyes. The animation is stunning, and the story is not only clever in parts, but is also a lot of fun with physical comedy, character and of course the cute interactions between WALL-E & EVE.

The idea alone, of a Romance with Robots, is enough to fascinate me, but they pulled this off very well. You’ll be surprised how much you care about a crummy junk robot.

02. Shall we Dance?

Yes, I know that Richard Gere is not the best actor when it comes to movies men will like. But this movie is a pass, for me. Why?
Well, for one thing, he’s old. I saw him in Pretty Woman, and hated it [I think they should have kept the 'drug addict' part of the prostitute character]. But here, he’s much older. As John Clark, he's too old for a chick flick, and that kind of meta aids in the portrayal of this character. An older man, who is not elderly, but is getting along in life. With a wife, kids and a successful job, he has everything he could possibly want.
But he’s not really happy.
He’s a lawyer who helps people write their wills, and this helps the character, and the audience, in wondering what life is really worth. He just feels unfulfilled. But one night, on the train home, he sees a beautiful woman in the window of an old dancing school, and so joins up hoping he’ll get to see her. As he continues his lessons, Mr Clark starts to enjoy dancing, and starts to make new friends, who provide much of the comedy.
As he continues to dance, he hides it from his wife, Beverly, and so she starts to suspect he is seeing another woman. The drama here is subtle, while the comedy and fun of the dancing school give this film the heart it needs to keep me interested.
And the film’s tension builds up with the crescendo of a dancing competition as John’s wife starts getting to the bottom of her husband's secret life and finally the two clash, and John must tell her the truth.
I love this film because it is a proper Romance film. Not some sickly sweet film about love, but a story about romance, and how love can feel empty without that little spice of romance.
A must see, I reckon. My only warning to the fellas is, If you watch this film, your partner might want to start ballroom dancing. Just . . . be aware of that.

01. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Have you ever broken up with someone? If not, I am sorry, but you’re probably going to. There are some who find their true love the first time, but for most of us, we will find someone, fall for someone, and be forced to split for one reason or another. It’s often hard to get over . . . so wouldn’t it be great if you could just forget?
In this film, Joel Barish runs into his girlfriend, after they recently had a huge fight and broke up, but she remembers nothing about him. Joel tries to find out why, and learns that she visited a small company called Lacuna Inc., which possesses a technology to enter your brain, scan for certain memories, and erase them. So you can, in effect, erase all memory of a past relationship.
It seems pretty simple, just lie back, go to sleep, and let the machine do its work. But when Joel signs up, so he can also forget about his and Clemetine’s relationship, he finds himself living through those memories.
He watches and lives through these scenes again, as the machine deletes them. As more and more memories are taken away, the good and the bad, Joel begins to regret the procedure. He realizes that he doesn’t want to forget, and so he decides he wants to remember Clementine. So he starts to fight back, doing everything he can to save his memories of her from being deleted.
In this film, Jim Carrey acts his ass off. He’s serious enough to pull off the heartbroken man, while being silly enough to get away with the unrealistic sci-fi elements of this story. But what sells this movie to me is that it has a pretty good message, which I believe speaks to everyone. Sure, this is about one couple, but the film begs the question:
If you could erase a past relationship, would you do it?
It’s the kind of two-in-the-morning drunk rambling that really opens your mind, and this film does everything it can to answer that question in all of its grisly and glory.
If you like Science Fiction, Comedy, Drama & Romance, you will love this film.

Well, that’s it, I guess. That's my top ten. If you disagree with anything I've said here, feel free to go outside, find a particularly large brick, and chew on it until your teeth bleed. This is my opinion, so it doesn't matter if you agree or not.
However, I admit that I have not seen every romance film there is. So if you think there are some films that I haven't seen that deserve a place on this list, feel free to let me know and I might try to watch it.

If you're a little bored, why not try to count how many times I used the word cliché in the course of this article?
If you're looking for me, I'm gonna go see how many of these films I actually own on DVD, and watch as many as I can before I start crying.

Until next time, I Love you All.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Deepest, Darkest Cigarette

Today, I have a topic for discussion which I have a lot to say about, but when it first came to me I couldn't find a Word of the Day to do it justice. Because today's topic is about truth, secrets, shame and what we do, as individuals, to justify our actions. For all of these, only one word came to mind. At first it seemed quite odd. But the more I thought about it, the more apt it became. So if you'll allow me to explain . . .
the Word of the Day is: 'WORMS'.

Worms /werms/ n. 1. Zoology. Any of numerous long, slender, soft-bodied, legless, bilaterally symmetrical invertebrates. 2. (loosely) any number of numerous small creeping animals with more or less slender, elongated bodies and without limbs, including insect larvae and tapeworms. 3. Something resembling or suggesting a worm in appearance, movement. 4. Informal. A groveling, abject or contemptible person.

For the purposes of is article, I was looking for a quote somewhere that would suit my needs. So I searched for the term:
  "Secrets are like Worms"
I was surprised to find only four hits (now, you should find five). Some of them were good, others less so, but my findings were thus:

  "Secrets are like worms because they eat away at you until they can crawl to the surface. Only there, in the sunlight, can they die away."

This is indeed true, as evidenced by the latest reports surrounding a popular Australian television and radio host, known as Chrissie Swan. If you haven't heard of her, Chrissie began as a contestant of the reality show, Big Brother Australia, and went on to become a breakfast radio host. Her comeback to television was as one of four female hosts on The Circle (Australia’s answer to The View). And went on to become the latest and greatest host of the new show called Can of Worms. On this show, guest stars are asked pertinent questions about culture, society, etiquette, prejudice, morality, sexuality and taboo.

She is much loved by many, including me. I think that she is not only funny, down-to-earth, intelligent and caring; but also (in my opinion) one of the few women who proves that ‘fat’ does not mean ‘ugly’.

Unfortunately, ugly is a good descriptor for this latest turn of events. On the 6th of February, five days before this post, listeners of ‘Mix 101.1’, a Melbourne breakfast radio show, tuned in to hear Chrissie Swan in tears. She was giving a confession. One she had hoped would never come to light:

  “I have struggled terribly with totally giving up cigarettes, since I found out that I was pregnant.”
You should hear this confession, in Chrissie’s own words, for yourself. But here is the abridged version:
For most of her life, up until her mid-thirties, Chrissie Swan smoked an awful lot, especially in her early twenties. When she met her partner (known as ‘Chippie’) she reduced her smoke intake, until she stopped completely with her first pregnancy.
After many years clean and a second pregnancy, she sadly relapsed around 2012 and started ‘sneaking’ cigarettes when she was alone.
It was a few months after this that she fell pregnant with her third child. At the time, Chrissie was unprepared to quit again, and so tried to go cold turkey. But after failing many times, she came up with a compromise with herself - Five Cigarettes a Week.
She would smoke these cigarettes in secret, alone in the car. She did this for about six months until, during one of these secret smokings, a paparazzo snuck up and took a picture. After begging and pleading for her secret to be kept, it seems she saw no other option than to come clean. Two days later, this lead up to her confession on radio.
It’s a sad thing, and very bad. When you smoke, a lot of things can happen to your body, and you do take in many chemicals and carcinogens into your bloodstream. An unborn child in your body will not get tar in its lungs, but other than that all of the nicotine and chemicals in your system will be pumped through that baby and its underdeveloped heart. It is pretty nasty for a fetus to go through that.
Chrissie knew all of this and yet smoked anyway. The situation is pretty condemning.

Indeed. The worm burst through the soil, and at its first breath of air, it died. It was a secret no more. But unfortunately, that’s when the cockroaches came, to feed on the carcass.
You see, there are many reactions to this story. But I believe they can be rounded up into two categories:


While there are some level heads out there, everyone who has responded seems to either condone or condemn her actions (if they care at all). But, I feel my position has not yet been heard. That is what I want to talk about today.

For those that call Chrissie Swan ‘brave’, I have to refute. No, she is not. She was caught in the act, and had little choice in the matter. She was a deer caught in the headlights. She could have jumped out of the way, and denied everything; she could have done nothing and let it run her over. Instead, she chose to jump on board, and ride it out.
While I do think she made the right choice, there’s not really any bravery in that, just honesty. Everyone is supposed to be honest. Doing the right thing isn't brave, it’s what you’re expected to do.

However, for those who say that she is terrible, selfish and a lot of other mean words. Well, I have two words: FUCK YOU.
These people have obviously never been smokers. I too have never been a smoker, but I don’t have to be. An addiction is an addiction, and I understand those shameful acts that we do, despite knowing how wrong they are.
What Chrissie did was wrong. We all know it’s wrong, she knows it’s wrong. Does that make her a contemptible, grovelling worm? No. It makes her human.

Alone, she was struggling to keep a secret, because she was ashamed of it. She was disgusted, and knew others would be too, so she tried to stop, whilst at the same time feeding her addiction. Because that is the nature of addiction, and quitting.
You both love and hate a thing so much that you must stop, and yet can’t. Today I won’t get into why I understand addiction so well; that is a longer story for a longer blog post. But I know that thing, that painfully pleasant thing that we must have, yet cannot. I know what Chrissie was going through. With each failure feeling terrible. And with the smallest success, the tension would build until she would again relapse, wracked with shame.

Finally, running low on options, she saw that her only choice was to come up with a compromise. An excuse - an admittedly paperthin excuse - to feed her addiction, which under that pressure of failure and shame seemed bulletproof.

I understand that inner conflict, and so should you.

Throughout her confession, I kept noticing that Chrissie would keep dropping in little callbacks to sort of 'deflect' the spotlight, kept referencing those things that everyone does:
”Is it just me, or did you have trouble giving up smoking?”; “as a lot of us did”; “and I know I’m not alone in this”; “no smoker wants to smoke.”; “is it just me, or is giving up cigarettes easier said than done?”
She kept deflecting and insisting that she was not alone. Some probably heard this and thought they were listening to excuses, but I didn’t. Those words were too honest for that, too raw. What I heard was a plea for understanding. Not for a reprieve, or absolution from her actions, just someone to know that we all feel shame when we cannot overcome something, especially when that something is addiction.

Because this whole time, Chrissie has been alone, too scared to tell anyone about her secret. She didn't tell her workmates, her friends, or even her partner, Chippie. So she wanted to know that she’s not alone, and wants others to know that they are also not alone. After all, it’s true: Many women have admitted to smoking during their pregnancy.
What Chrissie has done is wrong. But calling her or any smoker ‘disgusting’ for succumbing to their addiction is just going to stress them out [and probably make them want a cigarette].
Addiction is part of the human condition. Many, if not all of us, have secrets and personal shames that we keep to ourselves. The reason we are so ashamed is because of these assholes that think their shit doesn't stink. Think that addiction is a choice, a disgusting selfish act; when in truth, it’s often the most self-loathing vice a person can inflict upon themselves.
And to those people I say this:
  “If you were a long time smoker, freshly relapsed and ashamed of yourself, and were suddenly expecting an unexpected child amongst a constant litany of work, home and life stress – could you have quit?”

If you say yes, I don’t think you understood the question. Not really. If you were in that position, you couldn't do it on your own, and would be unable to seek help, because people like you would make you feel ashamed to admit it. Everyone and anyone in that situation would want to keep it a secret. Chrissie did this terrible thing, not because she has bad judgement, but because we all do. We believe that something as complicated as addiction, can be solved with something as simple as 'Name & Shame'
, despite the fact that, while we demonize one person and keep them in the spotlight, we will then sneak off into the shadows. Hide in our car to smoke our own metaphorical cigarettes.

Because that’s the thing about secrets . . .

Secrets are like worms. Start digging, and you’ll find them. It doesn't matter where you dig. Because, if you dig deep enough, you’ll start to find them everywhere.