Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Here Comes the Resurrection

I thought the title was fitting considering my favourite band of all time, Moist, have reunited after nearly thirteen years. If you don't get the reference, you now have the clues to piece it together.

As for my own sincerity on saving this blog, if you're skeptical, I'm right there with you. But I hope to prove us both wrong in the coming weeks. Creative stagnation is something I simply can't live with and perhaps the even more intense isolation of recent weeks (due to a wedding, the ending of a webshow's season, and breaking my fucking wrist doing Taekwondo) has really brought it to the forefront. If you aren't seeing people or doing things, then for god's sake at least create. That is, after all, what you claim to be good at.

So novels? short stories? plays? Remember those? No? Once again I can't really blame you - they seem so distant and while I'd love to report completion I will have to stick with the term "ongoing". Not abandoned. You're relieved, I am sure.

But The Dark Staircase is actually complete and has been for some time. Its length places it in the limbo somewhere between short story and novella. I've deemed it a novella because it sounds better. The sequel was nearly stillborn but progress is once again finally being made.

Whether it's yet another delaying tactic on my part or not, I've been convinced Staircase needs this sequel to help bolster it, lest publishment remain a faraway destination. Does it really need this (hopefully longer and, yes, better) sequel to be taken seriously? I don't know. But I do know I really need to concentrate on writing that and let the lists and endless pieces that forever fill my mind take a backseat for once.

"Lists?" you say? Isn't fiveorama as dead as this blog? Well, no, actually. And I'll prove it shortly.

And to think it actually took something as lame as twitter to get this going again. I shudder and shake my head disapprovingly. But hell, at least I'm typing again.

More to follow.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Late Shift

Right. I can't paint. And I definitely don't find it relaxing. Back to creating pictures with words.

So let's see. Something about writing while sleep-deprived - I meant to do that one ages ago. Finally, it's coming up. Promise.

But next time will be about perspective. Probably not the way you think though.

It's been a rough autumn. November certainly wasn't what I was hoping for and now once again  find myself wishing it was five years ago. It's hard living your life backwards. It's not like I haven't tried to break away from it but setback after setback just makes me want to go...back. The indifference of the world around me used to be something I was quite comfortable with. Now I just feel lost in the shuffle. If I was supposed to have things like a car and house and a longterm relationship with someone "stable" by now I guess I'd be disappointed. Instead I'm just...curious. For so long I didn't want to believe it's those things that truly make you happy. You can't pick and choose your beliefs though, not really. You can fool others but you can't fool yourself. Trust me on this one, I've spent a long time trying to prove otherwise.

The sequel? It's in my head. Why not on the page? It comes back to that living backwards thing again, I think. I'm supposedly so much wiser now but that certainly doesn't have much to do with happiness. Can't go back. Everyone knows that. If this was something someone was writing going back wouldn't be necessary anyway - the thing the protagonist wanted and missed would somehow show up again and he'd have the chance to make amends. Choosing beliefs? Well, I always wanted to believe in redemption. Maybe I still can. Just not my own redemption.

I don't look my age. I don't feel my age. Years ago I fell in love with an age, or at least the idea of one and now every day I get further and further (farther and farther?) away from it but at least I have my books and games to live in. Probably not the best course. But what can I do? Everyone over thirty makes me sick.

I realize this isn't my usual style of writing for this blog and that this bizarre post out of no where probably smacks of desperation. And maybe emotional distress. I haven't kept a journal in years and don't see myself ever going back to one. So using the blog as one isn't a crime. It's just not what I intended. But I think I'll have to start trying things differently. What was it Einstein said? Trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the clearest definition of insanity? At this point it may be some comfort to learn I'm not sane. At least then I could be special.

So for Xion, Kairi, and of course, the originator of this obsession for the aesthetic, Anne, this is cole.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Visual Art

I've decided to take up painting. I'll just give you a moment to let that sink in.

Like many children growing up, I went through different phases with what interested me the most at any given moment. This led to me declaring what my career ambition would be multiple times. I remember wanting to be a pilot, paleontologist, jazz musician and even a journalist (actually, I did live that last one out for a few years before coming to my senses).

But the very first thing I wanted to be was an artist. I guess that's not too shocking considering I've lived an artistic life and only wish to continue it, hopefully making a living at it along the way. Anyone who even briefly knew me knows that I'm an artsy person. So yeah, not too shocking.

However, since about the age of nine, I've realized that I have close to zero ability when it comes to visual art. I can't draw. For one thing, I don't have the patience. Even when I make comic strips out of stick figures I find myself lamenting that it's taking too damn LONG and I just want it over with. But when I was three, four, five - I wanted to be a painter. I drew hundreds upon hundreds of pictures with my crayons, about 90% of them featuring various nature scenes, from the Triassic period to present day. Beside dinosaurs, I especially enjoyed drawing birds, trees and mountains. Remember that guy who made oil paintings in that black void? He was my hero. I watched him whenever I could and desperately attempted to imitate his method using crayola and my meager skills.

By the time I was about ten, I finally realized that the things I drew didn't look the way I wanted them to. I also had to admit that freehand, I couldn't draw a decent circle or straight line to save my life. It was just around that time that I was discovering a real talent (at least, I'd like to think of it as real) for writing. I was good at rhythm and metre and I was good at vocabulary and storytelling. I had (and have) a great memory for detail and I was adept at putting it into written words.

When I'd reached my teens, I was even able to laugh at myself when it came to my complete lack of ability at drawing and all things related. This was completely my own doing and of my own volition; I can't recall any point in my life when anyone criticized or made fun of my attempts at art. I'd just decided that it was time for me to concentrate on my strengths and let that old love go. I've never looked back.

Until now.

I don't have any plans to become a great artist. Not even a passable one. I've just decided that I've never really had much experience with any sort of paint beyond the most basic going back to art class in junior high and I guess probably finger paints years before that. My plan is simply to paint and see if i enjoy it. I have a lot of stress and anxiety...issues and I'm going to try to use painting as a means to combat it. Trust me, it's not my first line of defence. Just a diversion that I hope won't be a complete disaster.

So I'm going to post my first ever painting on this blog whenever it's finished. I promise I'll be honest. I won't show you my fourth or fifth attempt and try to pass it off as my first. Whatever winds up on the canvas will wind up on this page. God help us all.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Untitled Dark Staircase Sequel

Even though it's ripping my guts out to continue with this character, I really think I have something with The Dark Staircase. And since it's short even for a novella (about thirteen thousand words) I figure it's going to need a companion story to get publishers to look at it. Of course this doesn't have to be a sequel but I've realized that I can change the character's name to whatever I want, it'd still be Annie I would be writing about.

So here's the beginning:

          Annie closed her eyes.

Riveting, huh? I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Action Needs an Audience: You Like to Read So...

Taking an unplanned break between books, all my reading over the past two weeks has been pretty much of the comic book variety. I've been buying more lately too and soon I'm going to need another box (that would be #8) for proper storage. So I've been a casual comic book reader for most of my life and a serious one for about the past eight years and lately I've been asking myself, "Are comics getting better?" Is that why I'm buying more?

Taking a look at what I'm currently collecting, the answer certainly isn't apparent. Over eighty percent of the books I follow and have followed over the years are Marvel, featuring superhero-types in that world. Many of the graphic novels I purchase are this too but those that are Marvel usually don't contain recent material at all. The vast majority of it comes from the eighties and nineties. As far as titles like X-Men goes, this is a direct reflection of how I feel about their state. Aside from a run of forty-some issues of the New Mutants title launched in late 2003 or early 2004, that eventually was renamed simply New X-Men (not to be confused with the title written primarily by Grant Morrison starting around 2000), I've never been able to maintain an interest in any X-book of the past decade. If I want stories featuring mutants I look to Chris Claremont and John Byrne, mostly. With some early stuff by Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld.

So I definitely don't think any of the X books are getting better but there's also a lot I simply haven't bothered with so it's fair to say I'm possibly missing out on something. I've been tinkering with the idea of picking up the newest X-Force but this will probably come to nothing.

But it's clear that I believe the Avengers have gotten a lot better. Here is a team that I have had almost zero interest in before 2004. The "big three" of Cap, Iron Man and Thor never did anything for me and even today after all that's transpired, it's only Cap whom I've changed my tune about. Brian Bendis is of course the man most responsible for this, with assists from guys like Ed Brubaker and Dan Slott here and there.

I could go on and on in this vein without really getting anywhere and possibly boring the living hell out of you so let's leave Marvel behind, shall we? Hell, let's leave superheroes behind too. Because really, as much as I love that genre and always will, I completely understand that it is the genre that simultaneously dominates and embarrasses the medium. No matter how well these titles are written, they're probably never going to escape the stigma that they carry for a lot of people. Which is  unfortunate but fine.

But it's really not fine that this is probably the leading reason why so many people who love books and reading don't take an interest in comics and graphic novels. Do I have a solution? No. Really, if someone wants to deprive himself of the brilliance of something like Watchmen, Sandman, Maus or The Unwritten or any alternative comics by geniuses like Chris Ware (or how about Renee French? Look these people up!) just because they make naive assumptions about comics, then that's just his loss and I feel sorry for him. Call me a snob but if you have never read any comics or manga then I don't see how you could possibly call yourself a true fan of or authority on literature. I mean, you can be one to a point of course, but by ignoring a huge section of it, you maintain a narrow view. Then again, I can't say I've read a great deal of medieval ballads - so does that make me some kind of hypocrite?

Ever since their birth, comics have been fighting an uphill battle to achieve legitimacy and respect in literary circles and sadly, it still seems like there's a ways to go. Someone recently told me that they themselves didn't read comics simply because they "didn't see the appeal". That was certainly a new one to me. Usually, if anyone had something to say on the subject, they'd talk about what they found to be unappealing. But just a lack of appeal overall? I find that hard to buy. Comics, more than any other literary medium - wears its appeal on its sleeve - it's right there. You don't have to search for it. It's front and centre. The fusion of writing and art to tell a story. Any story you can think of. I've yet to meet anyone who says they don't appreciate good art. So isn't good art appealing? Is there something about combining good art and good writing that somehow lessens their value? That seems a little screwy to me. As a pretty experienced student of the school of close reading, I figured I should take a stab at explaining comics and their appeal.

As a medium that is read, comic books relinquish a degree of control to its audience that television, movies, theatre and records do not. Even the shortest passages - maybe just one panel - are limitless in the time that they can command. The images remain frozen, the words echo on the page. Only once we've absorbed the tone and meaning do we move on. That's not something we do when reading a prose novel. A comic's inclusion of visual information is probably the major reason for its ghettoization, the idea being that words are harder earned information than pictures. But the fact is that while images do replace imagination, they also invite readers to slow down and reflect in a way that pure text never will. To me, this makes the experience of reading a comic more engaging than reading a novel. Not better. They're just different. Nothing is better than comics for delivering that one-two punch of active engagement and submissive escapism.

Since a comic book requires both acute visual and narrative talents, the comic book industry, kind of like the film industry, was facilitated by a studio system, at least in its earlier days. Comics are very rarely singular in their vision and nearly always collaborative in their creation. This makes them quite different once again from the novel, novella, play or short story. Even writer-artists have inkers, letterers (an often overlooked artform in itself) and of course, editors to work with.

But back to the actual experience. Comic books aren't a passive experience like film - it still is the imaginative, self-motivated act of reading that puts events into motion and brings characters to life. The result is an experience that we perceive through the intellectual force of text and the visual force of the image. At their best, these elements combine to create an intensity of experience that text alone can't hope to match. Of course, this isn't easily accomplished. Which is what I really believe makes comics special as a medium. While most people are happy to appreciate a pretty picture or to lose themselves in a good story, for some reason the combination creates raised expectations, if not a lack of interest that I just can't fathom.

I've always described myself as a "non visual" person and it's the truth. When recalling a person, I don't see their face flash in my mind, I hear their voice. It's often how I recognize actors in movies when they're playing roles that make them appear different. I'm pretty lousy at remembering appearance but I can't be fooled by voice. I'd much rather attend a symphony than a museum. But there is something still about the visual experience of reading that I adore. It's why I've never taken to audio books. I take great delight in how words are sometimes formed and how they look on the page. I love "oo" words like "moon", "broom", crook". Because it is so rare in English, I'm always pleased to see an "x" somewhere. This visual experience is absolutely crucial for me in reading. Here's a question for you: how often, when you're reading, do you find your eye floating to the bottom of the page to take in new information, maybe not even a full sentence, then return to where you were and continue reading forward? Sometimes I have to consciously force myself to keep my eyes from drifting ahead because I don't trust them. Comics take this experience to an even more pure level as we take in the picture up, down, to the side, up diagonally and so on, merging imagery and words effortlessly. It's not something you have to try to do; you just do it.

I've reached the end of my essay and am sorry to say I haven't been able to come up with a neat, concise conclusion. While that bugs the hell out of me, at least it will keep me from just repeating myself. If I come up with something later, I'll be sure to add it. See you in the funny pages.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My 2010 Reading

Inspired by kingshearte's post, I decided to try to recall the books I read in the past year. I never thought to try to keep track of them but since I have a really good memory for this sort of thing, I figured I would take a shot at it.

Obviously, these are in absolutely no order whatsoever. Not all of them are novels - some are collections of short stories and some are plays or novellas -  and most of the nineteenth century stuff was for school. Some of them, like Red Dragon, I have read more than three times. Some, like A Christmas Carol, Watchmen or the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, I read every year.

1. Tooth & Nail - Ian Rankin

2. Dracula - Bram Stoker

3. Ghosts - Henrik Ibsen

4. Magic Moon - Wolfgang and Heike Hohlbein

5. Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident - Eoin Colfer

4. Pluto (8 volumes in total) - Naoki Urasawa

5. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

6. Silas Marner - George Elliot

7. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead - Tom Stoppard

8. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

9. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

10. Earth X - Jim Krueger and Alex Ross

11. Universe X - Jim Krueger and Alex Ross

12. Hellboy: The Crooked Man and Others - Mike Mignola and Jim Corben

13. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

14. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

15. Ender in Exile - Orson Scott Card

16. Hide & Seek - Ian Rankin

17. The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye - Robert Kirkman

18. Akira Volume One: Katsuhiro Otomo

19. The Castle in Transylvania - Jules Verne

20. Red Dragon - Thomas Harris

21. Batman Year One - Frank Miller

22. JPOD - Douglas Coupland

23. Dissolution - Richard Lee Byers

24. Insurrection - Thomas M. Reid

24. Condemnation - Richard Baker

25. Extinction - Lisa Smedman

26. Knots & Crosses - Ian Rankin

27. Voice of the Fire - Alan Moore

28. The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fford

29. Love Hina Volume One - Ken Akamatsu

30. Pirate Latitudes - Michael Chrichton

31. Give Our Regards To Atom Smashers! - edited by Sean Howe

32. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born - Peter David, Jae Lee and Richard Isanove

33. The Dark Tower: The Long Road Home - Peter David, Jae Lee and Richard Isanove

34. The Dark Tower: Treachery - Peter David, Jae Lee and Richard Isanove

35. The Dark Tower: Fall Of Gilead - Peter David and Richard Isanove

36. The Dark Tower: Battle Of Jericho Hill - Peter David, Jae Lee and Richard Isanove

37. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling

38. Inherit The Wind - Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

39. X-Men: Days Of Future Past - Chris Claremont and John Byrne

40. Dark Entries - Ian Rankin and Werther Dell'edera

41. Sacrifice of the Widow - Lisa Smedman

42. Storm of the Dead - Lisa Smedman

42. Ascendancy of the Last - Lisa Smedman

43. Swordmage - Richard Baker

44. Corsair - Richard Baker

45. Avenger - Richard Baker

46. Watership Down - Richard Adams

47. The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R Tolkien

48. The Two Towers - J.R.R. Tolkien

49. The Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien (Tolkien always insisted they all be treated as one novel but oh well)

50. Akira Volume Two - Katsuhiro Otomo

51. Daredevil: The Man Without Fear - Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.

52. Weapon X  - Barry Windsor-Smith

53. The China Wall - Johnny Bower with Bob Duff

54. The Gunslinger - Stephen King

55. The Silence of the Lambs - Thomas Harris

56. The Thief Of Always - Clive Barker

57. The Ghost King - R.A. Salvatore

58. Coraline - Neil Gaiman

59. Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? - Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert

60. The Dark Hills Divide - Patrick Carman

61. Hellboy: The Conqueror Worm - Mike Mignola

62. Death On The Nile - Agatha Christie

63. The Last Iron Fist Story - Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and David Aja

64. Guardian Devil - Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada

65. Strange Tales - J.R.R Tolkien

66. The Pirate King - R.A. Salvatore

67. The Orc King - R.A. Salvatore

68. The Glass Menagerie - Tennessee Williams

69. Watchmen - Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

70. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

71. DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore - Alan Moore and various

72. The Black Book - Ian Rankin

73. Exit Music - Ian Rankin

74. Arkham Asylum A Serious House On Serious Earth - Grant Morrison and Dave McKean

75. MW - Osamu Tezuka

76. 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne

77. Daredevil: Born Again - Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

78. Sideways Stories From Wayside School - Louis Sachar

79. Murder On The Orient Express - Agatha Christie

80. Hellboy: The Wild Hunt - Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo

81. Batman: The Long Halloween - Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

82. Blaze - Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

83. The Long Walk - Richard Bachman

84. The Running Man - Richard Bachman

85. The Two Swords - R.A. Salvatore

86. X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga - Chris Claremont and John Byrne

87. Akira Volume Three - Katsuhiro Otomo

88. Akira Volume Four - Katsuhiro Otomo

89. Out Of The Silent Planet - C.S. Lewis

90. Let The Right One In - John Ajvide

91. Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life - Bryan Lee O'Malley

92. Scott Pilgrim VS The World - Bryan Lee O'Malley

93. Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness - Bryan Lee O'Malley

94. Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together - Bryan Lee O'Malley

95. Scott Pilgrim VS The Universe - Bryan Lee O'Malley

96. Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour - Bryan Lee O'Malley

97. Wizard And Glass - Stephen King

98. Joker - Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo

99. Primal Fear - William Diehl

100. A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett

101. Wayside School is Falling Down - Louis Sachar

102. The Three Muskateers - Alexandre Dumas *wins the Longest Thing Read This Year Award...I think

103. The Drawing of the Three - Stephen King

104. Tommy Taylor And The Bogus Identity - Mike Carey and Peter Gross

105. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

106. Batman And Son - Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert

107. Batman: Cacophony  - Kevin Smith and Walter Flanagan

108. Batman: The Widening Gyre - Kevin Smith and Walter Flanagan

109. Batman: R.I.P - Grant Morrison and Tony S. Daniel

110. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

I definitely forgot a few, like three or four books I read standing in the bookstore. And I left out a lot of comic arcs that were too short to mention. More will probably occur to me later but still, that's the most significant stuff, I think.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Walk to the Water

It's four am. I just got in from my walk. It's a walk I've been doing for the last three years. Mother doesn't like that I do it. She insists I shouldn't be "wandering the streets" late at night. She doesn't understand that I need to do it.

But unlike most nights when I take my walk to the water, I eschewed my headphones. I needed to think, even more than usual. I also kept my hood down and let the cold wind hit my face. I always do a lot of thinking on this walk but I guess something made me more pensive tonight than usual.

It could have been the fight I had with my father a few days ago. It didn't involve much; I simply angrily stormed off after reaching my limit for tolerance of his sarcasm. I understand that at the moment, his father is in the process of, well, dying, and maybe I should have cut him some slack. It's just that I've heard this from him many times before. Apparently, I don't do anything with my life. I never leave my apartment or do anything worthwhile. All I do is waste time and money. He got especially annoyed when I said I would walk home from the hotel rather than taking a cab. I don't like cabs, especially when it's a walk that I can do easily enough. But my discomfort with taxis is just one more of my faults in his eyes.

So anyway tonight I did my walk to the water. It always takes me onto the boardwalk at a certain point near Bishop's Landing. Years ago, I used to do that part with Anne, except that it was usually around sunset, the one time of day when Halifax Harbour can look halfway scenic (although I suppose it must also at sunrise). I think I've seen more sunrises than a lot of people. But back to Anne and I (something long dead) - we used to look at Bishop's Landing and talk about the future; our future. I was in my mid twenties and she was in her early, and we both wanted something beyond being students or kids with low-paying jobs. We wanted careers and status. We wanted to live somewhere nice and own nice things. We wanted security and comfort. We talked about me being successfully published and us moving into ritzy Bishop's Landing. But even that would be temporary. I knew Anne didn't want to always live in the city. She's an outdoorsy type who wants a big yard and a million pets. I hope someday she gets those things. Well, she already has a million pets but she wants horses, for Christ's sake. I hope she gets everything she's ever wanted.

Back when I was with Anne, I believed in my writing. Nowadays, it seems to get harder and harder to do that. So maybe that's why I get especially upset and defensive when someone like my father expresses their own doubts. On the walk tonight, I thought of all these things and decided the best thing I could do would be to be write about it when I got back. So here I am.

Walt Disney said "The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." While I've been writing, I realize it's rarely come close to the level that's required if I'm really going to make it work. So here goes.