Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Academics ...






Sundog Rising!
Reflections on living the life literary by the Urban Sundog




Non-Academics Prefer Aggression





I enjoy reading Edith Wharton.

I think she’s one of them ladies what really gets it. There’s nothing so archaically noble about her characters that can’t be simply undone by an entirely modern yet timeless petty moment of selfishness. But they’re essentially good people, and occasionally rise to inspiring actions in their behaviour that make you wish you could be certain you’d act the same way in a similar situation.

But beyond that, the woman has an eye for social detail, critique and commentary that is honest and again can speak across the decades to make points we can stand to hear now. I read The House of Mirth recently, and found this piece in particular to be a startling example of that sort of clarity of thought.

To the point that I immediately thought other people must have realized this -- I’d like to hear what other people have to say about this book and its issues these days! Searching the Library, I was able to locate a relatively recent (2001) collection of essays on The House of Mirth. Always up for an intelligent discussion of a good book, I checked it out immediately. Oddly, there wasn’t a waiting list for the book.

There were four essays in the book. I could read the first one. Enjoyed might be too strong a word. It wasn’t really getting at what I thought was there in the source material. The second essay managed to take up a high percentage of the pages of the total book with endless digressions on other novels which at least the writer of the essay had read even if no one else has, but did say the odd thing here and there I could at least recognize as concerning The House of Mirth. But again, seemed to miss the obvious points.

The last two essays were unreadable.





I find the general idea worthwhile of someone making the argument that as demonstrated in House of Mirth, when a person makes a negotiable item out of her social persona, as the only way a woman like her can get ahead in the world is to broker the most profitable marriage for herself, that person is faced with a demeaning approach to life. But the society as portrayed in House of Mirth is so out of date, it can’t really be held up as a cautionary example regarding such behaviour today.

What I object to is that same argument being expressed like this:

“The commodification of persons, the sex/gender economy, the radical capitalism of human relations presented by the text and amplified by subsequent readers remain as reminders of the power of materialism in its attempt to render society commensurable and exchangeable all the way to its most constituent parts, the human in the person and sociality in society. However, heightened awareness of our own production and perpetuation of this economy does not seem to have altered our behavior terribly much for the better. One could argue that we have rather complexified the processes completely out of hand, achieving for the system a kind of ubiquity that has an inuring effect on consciousness. When coercive agents and personal complicity get multiplied at every point, the task of critique and repair looms too monumental to mount. ... (The House of Mirth) wants us to identify with its version of a captivity narrative, but we may well be past the point at which this text can really scare us about what the commodification of human relations produces.”

(“Beyond Her Self”, Thomas Loebel, from New Essays on The House of Mirth, edited by Deborah Esch, Cambridge University Press, 2001 -- because I’m betting all of you are just chomping at the bit now to get out there and read the rest of that essay.)

Say what!?

“Amplified by subsequent readers”? “The human in the person and sociality in society”? “We have rather complexified the processes”? Guess what -- “complexified” isn’t a real word. “The task of critique and repair looms too monumental to mount”? “Captivity narrative”? Am I the only one who thinks that although the point the fellow is trying to make is valid, the way he expresses the paragraph is utterly ridiculous?

Here’s a shorter quote from the second essay, the one I thought had a point or two to make. Unfortunately in the midst of thousands of others I didn’t think needed to be there.

“All three novels express something of the aggressivity of Wollstonecraft’s Vindication in plotting to reduce their rakish heroines to tears. In part, as we’ve seen, this aggressivity is directed against femininity’s narcissistic love of pleasure.”

(“Determining Influences: Resistance and Mentorship in The House of Mirth and the Anglo-American Realist Tradition”, Mary Nyquist)

Once again, “aggressivity” isn’t a real word. Non-Academics prefer aggression. Which is a line I am reserving for the title of a new Jason Midnight story. If I read many more of these essays, I have a feeling that story should write itself.

Another thing I find fascinating is the utter contempt many academic writers express for emotions evoked by a writer in his or her work. No dismissal is more haughtily disdainful than the observation that the author only weakened for a moment from her higher pursuit to include a bit of writing only for “emotional effect”. Which is apparently an academic synonym for “melodrama”. Or should I say “melodrassivity”?

Oddly enough, that annoyance matches the reaction I have when what should be an intelligent discussion spills over into the cloying clich├ęs of academic incomprehensibility. A misuse of clear language in the unwarranted pursuit of trying to sound authoritative and above most “complexifications” because of the weirdly based opinion the critic has about his or her qualifications to expound sententiously upon a subject can lead to conclusions and rhetoric both grandiose and ill-founded. Something like the sentence you just read.

My favourite example of that was in an academic study I mistakenly read of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan books, where the critic was moved to wonder three quarters of the way through if the stories were not perhaps completely about incest. Since there was a complete absence of any evidence to draw that conclusion from in the writing itself. Burroughs was clearly trying to hide something.

None of this is to say that there isn’t some very intelligent writing coming out of academic settings well worth reading. I am a huge fan of the Popular Culture and Philosophy and the Blackwell Philosophy and Popculture series of books. Some of the most intelligent, entertaining, thoughtful, and amusing nonfiction writing I’ve read in the last ten years came out of those books. And the writers usually are to a person from the academic world. Sorry -- of course I really meant to say milieu. The only complaint I have here is that it doesn’t seem too likely an Edith Wharton and Philosophy title will be coming forth from either company soon.





Maybe philosophers are simply more likely to get it right than the “literary elite”.
I find it interesting that the blurb at the front of the book of essays on Edith Wharton I scored from the Library stated that each volume in its series begins with an introduction to the topic by “a distinguished authority on the text”. How does one go about becoming a distinguished authority on somebody else’s writing, I have to wonder? For example, is someone some day going to become a distinguished authority on my use of the utterly degenerate Iron Clown in Reality Fiction Too? The Oddball Edition? The actual essays included in the Wharton critical volume come from “senior scholars of established reputation and from outstanding younger critics”. You’d think then they’d be able to find someone who knew the difference between “aggressivity” and “aggression” and “complexified” and “complicated”.

I can’t help but think Edith Wharton herself would have had something to say about this sort of thing. A terminology being used to create an upper class of elite readers since they have more education, as in relation to say, a relatively vacuous and pretentious group of people setting the social standards for others based on the sole fact that they have more money? As I mentioned at the beginning, Edith was one of them ladies what really got it.

Here’s another overblown quotation I read somewhere else I had to laugh at -- “If the writer’s goal is to interpret the world, one eye looking back, the other forward, [sounds painful] the most intimate manifestation of this goal is to draw meaning from a life on the edge of death; to read the map of our life, as Borges would have us, written in the creases of ...”  Whoops. That one’s about me. From the distinguished scholar writing the intro to my poetry book.

And brilliantly insightful it is, too.





*******

REALITY FICTION UPDATE!

And what is Reality Fiction, you may well ask?

Simple. The concept of the Reality Television Series translated to the printed page. 40 characters from my backlog of generally unpublished material are gathered together to compete in a different theme each Episode, with one or two characters being eliminated each sequence until there are only two left to fight it out in the final. The winner gets a short novel of their own as the grand prize.

But somehow, things always seem to go horribly wrong ...

What’s happening now? 

Well, a few more people checked in to see what the hot sex was all about last week in the first instalment of Erotic Supernatural Romance, but I have to say, the numbers weren’t up that significantly from the poetic fantasy of the Flying Episode. So we’ll go back to plain ol’ violence in instalment two and see what happens. Solitude lashed out at everybody on Monday. See how he made out. (As opposed to those other characters who were only ... You know what I mean.)

Results Friday at:  realficone.blogspot.ca





REALITY FICTION TOO! EPISODES TO DATE

EPISODE FIFTEEN:     EROTIC SUPERNATURAL ROMANCE:     
“The Shadow of Her Passion”
EPISODE FOURTEEN:     FLYING:
“Sky Calling”
EPISODE THIRTEEN:     SLAPSTICK:
“The Phantom of the Werewolf”
EPISODE TWELVE:     DAIRY FARMING:
“Early One Morning”
EPISODE ELEVEN:     BURROUGHS:
“Chapter Nine”
EPISODE TEN:     WEREWOLVES:
“The Silver Solution”
EPISODE NINE:     WRESTLING:
“Suckerslam XIV”
EPISODE EIGHT:     JANE AUSTEN ROMANCE:
“The Proud and the Senseless”
EPISODE SEVEN:     THE JAZZ AGE:
“The Bucky-Dusky-Ruby Red Hop!”
EPISODE SIX:     SUBMISSION:
“Re-Org”
EPISODE FIVE:     MASQUERADE:
“The Eyes Behind the Mask”
EPISODE FOUR:     SELF HELP:
“Sausage Stew for the Slightly Overweight Presents:
Some Several Suggestions Guaranteeing Success for the Mildly Neurotic”
EPISODE THREE:     NUDIST:
“If You Have To Ask ...”
EPISODE TWO:     FRENCH BEDROOM FARCE:
“Un Nuit a Fifi’s!”
EPISODE ONE:          STEAMPUNK:
“The Chase of the Purple Squid!”

A J.H.B. Original!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Secondhand Books








Sundog Rising!
Reflections on living the life literary by the Urban Sundog




If It’s Secondhand, It Must Be Good







I love shopping for secondhand books. Or third hand, fourth hand, I’m not particular.

Now this pursuit takes in a wider range of experience than you might at first think. There are a few different sources of good secondhand material.

My favorite is the Thrift Shop/Value Village/Salvation Army experience. We did a lot of every bit of our shopping at Value Village once, when our son was first born. To the extent that we couldn’t fool him with any of those “the stork brought you” stories. Oh no. He was convinced at an early age that we got him at Value Village. The experience was also the source of one of his first jokes. “Where does the one-armed man shop?” The second hand store, obviously.

However, as much as I enjoy still shopping for books in such venues these days, my brother-in-law Brian from Saskatchewan is the acknowledged master. In a whirlwind tour this summer, over a couple of weeks he scored well over a hundred books (mostly children’s) for less than a hundred bucks, scouring Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg. The two of us hit six venues in one notable day in July.

The selection you discover in these places is what thrills me the most. Sure, you have to push your way through the badly sorted copies of Waterfowl in Iowa and Table Saw Techniques (actual titles) to discover the real prizes, but the hunt is worth it. A number of years ago I decided I was going to read all the Hugo and Nebula Science Fiction Award winners. I didn’t do badly finding most of my missing titles in the Library and actual Secondhand Bookstores, but there were a couple of titles that just would not appear. It seems winning an internationally recognized Science Fiction book award doesn’t automatically guarantee your work unlimited availability.

For five years I searched for a copy of 1955’s The Forever Machine, by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley, the second book ever to win the Hugo award. Could only find it online, at a cost of about five dollars for the book and sixteen dollars for shipping and handling. Which did not appeal. I had completely given up, when my wife dragged me to the Salvation Army on St. James Street one night so she could look for clothes. Naturally, I gravitated to their tiny assortment of books. And there it was. The Forever Machine, a steal at fifty cents. Practically mint condition.

If anyone has any hot tips, I’m still looking for 1977’s Where the Sweet Birds Sang, by Kate Wilhelm.





The next step up from thrift shops is the legitimate Secondhand Book Store, where you can expect to pay maybe five bucks for a paperback that came out originally at twelve or fourteen these days. My all time favorite in Winnipeg of course has to be the classic Red River Books, downtown in the Artspace building in the Exchange. Shopping in Red River is like embarking on an archeological dig. Quite literally. The floors are stacked high with piles of loosely sorted books. But again the finds are always worth it. Especially if some son or daughter clearing out their recently deceased parent’s collection of late fifties/early sixties UFO and paranormal nonfiction classics has recently been by. Red River sells videos, CDs, records and comics as well. There might even be an eight-track or two if you dig deep enough.

Moving on from there however, there is the odd establishment that insists that if a book is being sold secondhand it should cost more than the original list price, as it must be a collectible. I’m convinced these places must be a front for illegal drug money laundering. I can’t understand how they stay in business otherwise. Sort of like Christian knick-knack shops in malls.

Finally of course there is the wonderful Internet. I’ve found this hit and miss. I didn’t have any luck finding The Forever Machine at a reasonable price, but my sister had no trouble scoring a vintage hard-covered Peanuts anthology for five dollars. As always the trick seems to be shopping from a source within your own country, to cut down on shipping and handling. And once again, it’s amazing what you find available online.




For instance, at one point some kid in Japan was trying to sell a copy of my poetry book, Destination Mutable, on Amazon for fifty bucks. If he pulls it off, he’ll make more money on the damn book than I did. And according to the Internet, my collection of Jason Midnight stories, Midnight’s Delight, was once a recommended read on a Chinese airline.

Further to Midnight’s Delight and Amazon: considering that I can practically identify everyone who bought a hard copy of that book by name, you can bet my suspicions surged when I discovered no less than five secondhand copies available for re-sale on the Internet. I have a list of likely suspects ...

Which of course also leads to the obvious question. As a writer myself how do I feel about any venue selling my work secondhand? Since I barely got a cut out of the primary sales of my two published books, not that bad really. I remember feeling quite chuffed actually when I walked into some thrift store and found a copy of an anthology that had a story by me in it. That meant someone actually bought the book in the first place!

I take my books inevitably being dropped off at the thrift store as being part of the entire weird writing experience. There’s getting the idea. There’s getting the words down. There’s revising and editing. There’s trying to get a publisher interested. There’s the endless rejections. There’s waiting two years after you finally get a publisher interested for the damn thing to come out. There’s the book launch. There’s the thrill of seeing your work in a real bookstore, lost among tens of thousands of other titles. Maybe you even get a review or two. Five months later there’s the thunderous annoyance of having to store two hundred remaindered copies in your basement and front porch. And then ...

Resurrection! Fifty-five years after you win the Hugo Award, your book reappears on the shelves of the Salvation Army Thrift Store! Immortality, at last!





And if you’re lucky, at only fifty cents a copy.




*******

REALITY FICTION UPDATE!

And what is Reality Fiction, you may well ask?

Simple. The concept of the Reality Television Series translated to the printed page. 40 characters from my backlog of generally unpublished material are gathered together to compete in a different theme each Episode, with one or two characters being eliminated each sequence until there are only two left to fight it out in the final. The winner gets a short novel of their own as the grand prize.

But somehow, things always seem to go horribly wrong ...

What’s happening now? As I mentioned last time, I keep thinking one certain story is going to make this thing explode. Flying turned out not to be that story. In fact, I must admit I think the numbers were down a little bit from usual. However, when I announced the Episode starting this week on Facebook as being Erotic Supernatural Romance, the interest shown there was four times as high as usual. Sex sells, right? We’ll see. I’ve hinted at trying that before, but this time I actually deliver the goods. I’m even putting on a content warning. Will telling people they might not want to enter the site really draw them in in droves? I’ll let you know next time. Story-wise, the Contestants have to be warned as well. There’s one nasty-minded Vampire out to get the rest of them still at large.

Starts Friday at:  realficone.blogspot.ca





REALITY FICTION TOO! EPISODES TO DATE

EPISODE FOURTEEN:     FLYING:     “Sky Calling”
EPISODE THIRTEEN:     SLAPSTICK:     “The Phantom of the Werewolf”
EPISODE TWELVE:     DAIRY FARMING:     “Early One Morning”
EPISODE ELEVEN:     BURROUGHS:     “Chapter Nine”
EPISODE TEN:     WEREWOLVES:   “The Silver Solution”
EPISODE NINE:     WRESTLING:   “Suckerslam XIV”
EPISODE EIGHT:     JANE AUSTEN ROMANCE:   “The Proud and the Senseless”
EPISODE SEVEN:     THE JAZZ AGE:   “The Bucky-Dusky-Ruby Red Hop!”
EPISODE SIX:     SUBMISSION:   “Re-Org”
EPISODE FIVE:     MASQUERADE:   “The Eyes Behind the Mask”
EPISODE FOUR:     SELF HELP:   “Sausage Stew for the Slightly Overweight Presents:
Some Several Suggestions Guaranteeing Success for the Mildly Neurotic”
EPISODE THREE:     NUDIST:   “If You Have To Ask ...”
EPISODE TWO:     FRENCH BEDROOM FARCE:   “Un Nuit a Fifi’s!”
EPISODE ONE:          STEAMPUNK:   “The Chase of the Purple Squid!”

A J.H.B. Original!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Creative Process - One








Sundog Rising!
Reflections on living the life literary by the Urban Sundog




Keystone Creativity







So when does an idea for a story grow big enough to rate a novel? How does any story come together, really?

My personal observations would lead me to believe that there are as many ways to develop your creativity into tangible writing as there are writers. I don’t know if any two authors truly work the same. There are some craft techniques that can easily be duplicated from person to person, but what about the creativity percolating at the very heart of the experience? Getting your imagination to function and flow in the first place?

That’s an issue that’s going to seriously vary for the individual from project to project as well, depending on your intent. Obviously, you think quite differently writing a fourteen line poem than you do writing a three hundred page novel. I’m working mostly on novels these days, and have been doing it long enough to get some distance from how the process seems to work best for me.

Writing is a twenty-four hour a day experience. It all stems from how you sense the world and choose to order those sensations, and how well you remember your dreams. This process continues on more abstract planes as well. Your brain takes in that sense input and does the physical remembering for you, but your mind applies those impressions to what you already know of the world and how you pray it actually functions. Twisting and retwisting, devising and revising concepts constantly. At any given moment, I’m certain I’ve got an almost uncountable number of potential ideas for writing bouncing around in my head at once.

And then, BAM! I experience something that makes me articulate what I call the Keystone Concept. The keystone is the stone at the top of the arch that holds all the other stones in place to create a beautiful form. Without the keystone, the other stones fall to the ground in a scattered mess, lacking coherent form or recognizable relation to each other.





I experienced this most dramatically in conceiving the novel I’m working on currently, a project which due to circumstances beyond my control -- they’re always lurking out there  -- I’ve been pursuing on and off over five years. The interruptions have created a new set of challenges for me to complete the book I’ve never had to face before. But making it work is proving more satisfying than I dreamt as well.

So there I was, one bored morning five years ago in my past life as someone who actually worked for a living, at my job with the Manitoba Department of Education. I worked in the Transcription Services Department, recording talking books for blind kids. I narrated myself and also worked as an audio technician recording other people reading. Occasionally we got to do a novel, but most of our time was spent on text books. Some mind numbingly boring, some quite fascinating. And it was a great job to learn about words.

We were working that morning on a post secondary law text book, examining different judicial systems around the world. Glen, my narrator that morning, was manfully struggling through a chapter on the Japanese Justice System. Not a subject I had ever given a single thought to in my entire life previously.

Who could have guessed that the Japanese Justice System was a Keystone Concept for me? I certainly never suspected.

Glen is reading away, and I’m grasping the subtleties and differences in how the Japanese approach the court system as opposed to what I watch regularly on Law and Order, and suddenly wham! The Keystone drops into place. A beautiful arch of otherwise unrelated concepts takes perfect shape within my mind. I scramble for a piece of paper and outline an entire novel in five minutes I had no idea I had any idea of ten minutes previously.





Yes, it happens that quickly. I’ve spent the next five years hammering out the details. But the essence of the novel and its six defining moments, a book now shaping up to be around 350 to 400 pages in length, were abruptly and suddenly there. And haven’t changed significantly in the execution of the writing so far.

The problem is I can’t make this process happen any time I choose. I just have to be open to it when it does. And also do my best constantly to accumulate as many of those seemingly unrelated impressions from life that represent the stones needing to be jammed  into shape by the sudden appearance of the Keystone.

So what happened next? If this is such a great process, why haven’t I finished writing the damn book?

First off, I had the overall concept, but I needed to do the research to flesh it out. Glen did a good job reading that morning, but I still needed a little more background on the Japanese Justice System than he could give me with his awkward attempts to pronounce foreign language legal precepts. As well the thing was this was going to be a science fiction novel. A straight out science fiction novel, unlike any I’d ever written before. I wasn’t just creating a book, I was creating a new universe. That took a little thinking.

I made pages and pages of notes, and started writing the first draft of the book. Since I was new to the full out science fiction format -- usually I mash together elements of as many genres as I feel I need to make up anything I write -- I was being careful to meet what I believed to be the expectations of the genre. Everything went forward, driven by that wonderful Keystone thumping into place.

But I was still working my day job at the time. And I would be for another year and a half, after I started writing. Not dwelling on my numerous health problems once again, let me say that within six months of starting the book, my medical complications were rendering life so difficult I was lucky to haul myself into the paying job any morning, let alone still retaining any energy to write once I got home. At one point in life, I could work all day, spend the evening with my family, and then sit down to write for an hour or two between ten pm at night and midnight. Not any more. It rapidly became apparent that either work, me, or the novel had to go for me to continue at all.

So the novel went. First. It wasn’t enough. Life finally built to a situation where it was a race to see if either I or the job was going to break first. My Doctor finally told me to quit before they had to carry me out. So I did. Started writing full time and have never felt better.

But there was now a considerable gap between when I’d been writing up that wonderful concept the first time, and taking up the pen again. I’d lost the flow, and moved on to other projects. But never forgot about that Keystone thudding so powerfully into place.

I’d come up with a title for the book that stuck. The Veridical Corridor. And I’d made some fifty pages of notes, and wrote close to two hundred pages of manuscript. There was something to work with there, when I wanted to get back to it.

Trying to keep it alive, I made Corridor’s two central characters, Billy Garlock and Major Dez Rega, key Contestants in the first Reality Fiction Contest. Hoping that would shame me into having to finish the book, and also teach me more about them so I’d have some continuity happening when I got back to it.

Last fall I decided to pick up the Corridor again. But I was overflowing with ideas last fall, so I ended up trying to work on six different projects at once, and discovered that I couldn’t successfully complete anything working in those numbers. Thinking about the book in the meantime, I realized I really didn’t want to pander to science fiction genre expectations, and decided to try giving the writing more of a noirish edge based on early American crime classics I’d been reading. And while the initial six points that defined the book were still the same, I’d been wandering in my physical confusion in the last weeks while I was first writing the book, introducing too many characters and extraneous subplots (what? Me use too many characters? Never!) and generally losing the forward momentum of the book. I’d have to fix that. But more importantly, with my memory, I’d need to go back to page one and start rewriting the book from the beginning to fully pick up the thread of the story’s development.

The book is in three parts. I’d completed part one in the original draft, and got lost somewhere in the second third of part two before I collapsed. Picking it up again, I managed to rewrite about half of part one, altering the flashback structure of the book to make it more effective as well. This essentially redesigned the flow once more to target the two lines of conflict that mix to define the central conflict clearly at the end of part two, to be resolved in part three.

This year, I resolved to carry the book out to some conclusion. I would either make it work, or establish that I couldn’t take it any further than I already had. Which was a serious concern. More than a few years had passed since I had first conceived the idea. Would it still stand up for me? Would I have to listen to Glen struggling with his Japanese pronunciation again to rekindle the spark?

Holding myself down to only two projects at once, a number I seem to be able to manage quite comfortably, I whipped through the rest of the rewrite of part one. Within a week or two of starting up again, the Keystone thudded repeatedly into place for me once more, reasserting the central premise driving the whole plot. I was able to make a further three pages of notes clarifying substantially what I need to do to make things happen in that regard with my new approach to the style of the book.





The momentum of strictly rewriting what was already there took me about a sixth of the way into part two. Then new challenges arose. Suddenly I wasn’t just reworking what was already there anymore. The second part of the book was where I had bogged the pace down the most with endless sci fi exposition -- good stuff to know now, but better to work with in terms of developing the action of the story rather than endlessly explaining. Now I had to start taking events that I’d already written, but write them anew in a completely different manner to make them work and be consistent with the revised style of the first part and the new vision for part three.

As I worked through the manuscript, this process grew more and more disjointed. I couldn’t follow the story as I’d been writing it already anymore. But there was still a lot of valuable material I needed to salvage there. So new outlines took shape, new writing shaped itself around old concepts, and instead of following the old manuscript page by page, I was now jumping around over about forty pages reworking this paragraph here, rescuing this half page of exposition there, cutting these six characters here, dumping that subplot there, and shoring up the central push of the story as strong as I could make it.

Finally, breakthrough. I had moved beyond the original manuscript completely and could start writing completely new material. In a surprisingly short time, I dashed off the rest of part two, including two of the most central scenes in the book uniting the conflicts almost exactly as I had originally conceived them that magical moment when the Keystone dropped five years ago. It’s a method that works. For me, anyway.





Now, I’ve only got to write part three.

Given the saga so far, who knows where, when or how that will exactly happen. But at least I know now the Keystone has really, really got legs. To mangle a metaphor or two, but hey, isn’t that what the Internet’s for?


*******

REALITY FICTION UPDATE!

And what is Reality Fiction, you may well ask?

Simple. The concept of the Reality Television Series translated to the printed page. 40 characters from my backlog of generally unpublished material are gathered together to compete in a different theme each Episode, with one or two characters being eliminated each sequence until there are only two left to fight it out in the final. The winner gets a short novel of their own as the grand prize.

But somehow, things always seem to go horribly wrong ...

What’s happening now? I posted Episode Fourteen: Flying yesterday. I’m really curious to see what the reaction -- if any -- will be to this one. While indubitably still Reality Fiction, the approach to the theme exemplifies better than perhaps any other Episode my approach to fantasy writing depicting a greater dream state made real. I keep thinking one certain story is going to make this thing explode. Or maybe I'm just dreaming, myself. Perhaps this will be the one ...?

Continues Friday at:  realficone.blogspot.ca





REALITY FICTION TOO!
EPISODES TO DATE

EPISODE THIRTEEN:     SLAPSTICK:     “The Phantom of the Werewolf”
EPISODE TWELVE:     DAIRY FARMING:     “Early One Morning”
EPISODE ELEVEN:     BURROUGHS:     “Chapter Nine”
EPISODE TEN:     WEREWOLVES:   “The Silver Solution”
EPISODE NINE:     WRESTLING:   “Suckerslam XIV”
EPISODE EIGHT:     JANE AUSTEN ROMANCE:   “The Proud and the Senseless”
EPISODE SEVEN:     THE JAZZ AGE:   “The Bucky-Dusky-Ruby Red Hop!”
EPISODE SIX:     SUBMISSION:   “Re-Org”
EPISODE FIVE:     MASQUERADE:   “The Eyes Behind the Mask”
EPISODE FOUR:     SELF HELP:   “Sausage Stew for the Slightly Overweight Presents:
Some Several Suggestions Guaranteeing Success for the Mildly Neurotic”
EPISODE THREE:     NUDIST:   “If You Have To Ask ...”
EPISODE TWO:     FRENCH BEDROOM FARCE:   “Un Nuit a Fifi’s!”
EPISODE ONE:          STEAMPUNK:   “The Chase of the Purple Squid!”

A J.H.B. Original!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Arsonfest






Sundog Rising!
Reflections on living the life literary by the Urban Sundog









Pre-review and Analysis of a New Music Video by Dylan Baillie:

Arsonfest 2013

A Grindcore Festival held August 9th and 10th in Winnipeg, Manitoba at the Windsor Hotel. 

Featuring performances by:

Flash Out
Breathe Knives
Cetascean
Shooting Spree
Detroit
Violent Gorge
Violent Restitution
Plague
Parfumerie
Psychotik Tantrum
Obacha
Ahna
Head Hits Concrete
SixBrewBantha



Define Grindcore? Simple.





Play it so goddamn fast yer heart’ll explode, blast beats thrusting the drumming front and centre, at one point all the instruments cutting out except the guitar, building the song to a cataclysmic finish, dominated by harsh vocals and extreme brevity of expression. One minute songs are not uncommon.

And a Grind Fest? Even simpler.

A publicly sanctioned evening of demon possession.

Dylan Baillie’s Arsonfest 2013 video is a nonstop barrage of music, songs flowing almost indeterminately one into another, as opposed to presenting some music, then some talking heads, then more music, more talking, etc. This is the concept of the one minute Grindcore song expanded exponentially into one hour and 22 solid minutes of sonic assault. No apologies made, before or after.

The video takes you deeper into the spirit of the music being made manifest than standing in the audience would, thereby establishing itself as a separate media experience from the Grind Fest itself. The camera angles place you looking down on the drums with the drummer, up at the finger work of the guitarists from an angle you wouldn’t witness in person, into every pained, straining muscle of the vocalist’s faces as they spit out their fury. A full vision of varying magnitudes of staccato thunder, carried directly into the crowd by the twisting bodies of the vocalists and into your living room or theatre by the video.

Broken up occasionally by the odd non-representative scene, like the long shot focussing on the band’s feet and jean clad legs as their song slowly takes shape into the usual assault.

Tattoos, hair, shirtless bodies, logo black tee shirts, flailing arms, contorted bodies, stricken facial expressions all explode from the screen, with a focus on the hands and faces. The human agencies from which the music originally bursts forth.





The video transitions seamlessly from one wall of drumming to the next. The repeating shots of drummers with tilted arrays of cymbals before them reverberate like a tornado toppling a garbage truck full of wind-chimes into a giant sewing machine.

And then there’s always the almost forgotten guitarist, lost in the drumming and singing, asserting his or her instrument for at least one passage in every song, the veins bulging out on the backs of their hands.





His or ... Her?

Yes, there are women too. Singing, playing guitar, drumming, writhing, embracing the full concept of Grindcore. The various possessed, offering a commitment to the integrity of a certain mode of expression: a relentless dream/nightmare vision of musicians in collision.

This is Abstract Expressionist music, Edward Munch’s silent painted Scream rendered aggressively aural. Especially the vocals. A hyper-assault upon the senses, driving, rampant, angry, shriek to roar with every guttural inbetween. Demon possessed headrotating music as opposed to headbanging. Like a grater scraped across your ears. Spastic to the transcendent. Vocals chastising all secure assumptions.

Grindcore, especially the vocals, reminds me of the play Play, by Samuel Beckett. An economy of titling there any good Grindcore purist would appreciate. There are three motionless characters in Play, only one speaking at a time and only when a strong spotlight is shined in his or her face. While one talks, the other two sit silently in darkness. The characters never acknowledge the existence of the other two. Beckett wrote that the spotlight provokes the character’s speech. A famous veteran actress of Beckett’s plays, Billie Whitelaw, has stated that in Play the spotlight is used as “an instrument of torture”.

I witnessed a performance of Play when I was much younger. As the characters speak in unrelated sentence fragments, punctuated by mad laughter at one point, no partial line related to the one before or after it, and the eye is continually redirected from one suddenly appearing face to another in an otherwise blackened room, the effect of viewing the play live is a physical assault on your senses, mind, and emotions; sound and light building in a unique combination of sensory noise to startle and shock, with very little recognizable coherent meaning conveyed in the process.

There are possibly five comprehensible sentences in Dylan’s entire Arsonfest video. As the linguistic signifiers of any song’s lyrics are rendered unrecognizable by their presentation, they therefore cannot be the focus of either the performance or the movie, the resulting vocal Grand Guignol acting only as garish counterpoint enhancement to the instruments’ driven roar.





Does the movie drag you into the message behind the belligerent mask obscuring the voice? As no words are used, the emotion of the vocal alone conveys meaning. A meaning discordant and shocking, exactly the effect intended. Meaning through contempt for words and prettified sound.

Shot in a nightmarish dark club, the lights change from performance to performance. Eerie green, blue, purple, and even sometimes oddly flesh toned. The eerie green especially leaving an impression of a supremely guttural Lovecraftian Cthulic Ritual made real.

Can you tell one song from another? As well as the undeniable similarity in beat and the inability to distinguish any one set of lyrics from another, there is a compelling repetition of characters through the video. Echoing visions of the mixed bands. The segments might be short, but every sequence with every separate band is a separate, complete song. Some songs are over before you’re even certain they’ve begun.

So the presentation sounds all the same. Yet the video builds. Like the guitars climbing up the walls like belligerent spiders during any given song, subtly -- as Grindcore is one of the few music genres that can render a screaming electric guitar subtle -- building the focus and intention of each song, the video layers the more defining moments of the concerts slowly forward as well, reaching an intense and recognizable finish. Still doing the same thing at the end as at the beginning, sure. But even more so, and that’s what’s so amazing.

So why does Dylan Baillie love Grindcore so much? He says the music energizes, is aggressive, fast. He likes the drumming, and the people who produce the music. Despite the apparent prevailing Satanic possession, they don’t take themselves that seriously and are tremendous to socialize with. The Canadian Grindcore scene is intense. Grabbing the emotions with a total bombardment of sound demanding attention. Plus he thinks the guitar riffs are catchy and fun.

Dylan hopes to hold a public screening of the video early in 2014, and would like to release the movie on DVD in the spring. Full production credits for the video include: Dylan Baillie, as Director, Cameraman, and Editor; Simon Peacock and Nick Miller as Cameramen.

A Grind way to spend an evening.




*******

REALITY FICTION UPDATE!

And what is Reality Fiction, you may well ask?

Simple. The concept of the Reality Television Series translated to the printed page. 40 characters from my backlog of generally unpublished material are gathered together to compete in a different theme each Episode, with one or two characters being eliminated each sequence until there are only two left to fight it out in the final. The winner gets a short novel of their own as the grand prize.

But somehow, things always seem to go horribly wrong ...

What’s happening now? Episode Fourteen. To everyone’s surprise the least likely Contestant expected chooses the theme of Flying for the next excursion. And not in a plane. Is it a dream, or just the general oddness?

Starts Friday at:  realficone.blogspot.ca





REALITY FICTION TOO! EPISODES TO DATE

EPISODE THIRTEEN:     SLAPSTICK:     “The Phantom of the Werewolf”
EPISODE TWELVE:     DAIRY FARMING:     “Early One Morning”
EPISODE ELEVEN:     BURROUGHS:     “Chapter Nine”
EPISODE TEN:     WEREWOLVES:   “The Silver Solution”
EPISODE NINE:     WRESTLING:   “Suckerslam XIV”
EPISODE EIGHT:     JANE AUSTEN ROMANCE:   “The Proud and the Senseless”
EPISODE SEVEN:     THE JAZZ AGE:   “The Bucky-Dusky-Ruby Red Hop!”
EPISODE SIX:     SUBMISSION:   “Re-Org”
EPISODE FIVE:     MASQUERADE:   “The Eyes Behind the Mask”
EPISODE FOUR:     SELF HELP:   “Sausage Stew for the Slightly Overweight Presents:
Some Several Suggestions Guaranteeing Success for the Mildly Neurotic”
EPISODE THREE:     NUDIST:   “If You Have To Ask ...”
EPISODE TWO:     FRENCH BEDROOM FARCE:   “Un Nuit a Fifi’s!
EPISODE ONE:          STEAMPUNK:   “The Chase of the Purple Squid!”

A J.H.B. Original!