2020 in Pixels and Points (and Sweat)

Uncut Gems poster.jpg
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

Features enjoyed:

Derry Girls.png
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

Television savoured:

  • Mr Inbetween S01–02
  • The Casketeers S03
  • Zero Zero Zero
  • Derry Girls S01–02
  • I Am Not Okay With This
  • The End of the Fucking World S01–02
  • Sextortion
  • The Young Pope
  • The Great S01
  • Last Tango in Halifax S01–02

It being the year it was, not much live theatre was attended.

Without permission from www.conundrumpress.

Pages devoured:

This year, I managed to run a personal record-beating 106 times, clocked up a PR-beating 606 kilometres, but didn’t quite manage as much calisthenics as last year. Although guilt continues to be a prime exercise motivator, this year’s outstanding stats were thanks in large part to a couple of Alert Level changes.

Cavalry at rest, September 2020.

Onwards into 2021.

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Lit

INT. DEN, FORTRESS MAMEA -- AFTERNOON

THE LOVELY WIFE, a slab of “Owner Builder” MAGAZINES on her lap, glances up at her PET WRITER’s reading: a NOVEL by [a very famous New Zild writer].

THE LOVELY WIFE

How’s it going?

PET WRITER

... Ehh. I’m fifty pages in and it’s all been introductions of a whole bunch of characters, all experiencing the same traumatic event, each introduction from their own point of view BUT WITH NO GODDAMNED PROGRESSION OF STORY.

THE LOVELY WIFE

What’d you expect?

PET WRITER

Well, with Stephen King’s “The Stand” --

THE LOVELY WIFE

Whoa, there, tiger: they’re two very different things.

PET WRITER

They’re both about a small number of people surviving some terrible incident --

THE LOVELY WIFE

Yes, sure, but “The Stand” is a fantasy novel while that --

(re. novel in Pet Writer’s hand)

-- is literature.

PET WRITER

Literature“?

He looks anew at the book in his hand:

PET WRITER

HOW THE FUCK DID THAT HAPPEN?

The Lovely Wife sighs and resumes her magazine reading.

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WE ARE MANY: a clinic

Last weekend, Playmarket provided a one-day clinic for We Are Many, a newish play inspired by the Womens Mau Movement who continued passive resistance against the New Zealand occupation in 1930s Samoa.

Leaders of the Womens Mau, circa 1930. www.nzhistory.govt.nz

The clinic was followed by a public reading where tears were shed — a good thing for a writer seeking audience emotional engagement, even at ‘just’ a reading — and feedback was gratefully received.

Many hugs and thanks to:

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Walking Dead Forever

Without permission from undeadwalking.com.

This time last year, I opened up issue 192 of The Walking Dead and did my usual first-pass read — the kind of breath-held-whaat’s-happeniiing-neeeext first-pass read — and partway through I sat back, stunned. I remember turning to the Lovely Wife and telling her what I’d just read. (Not a comic reader herself, she made a sympathetic noise and returned to her house renovations.)

The end of TWD came a month later with issue 193 and, miracles of miracles — though to be honest, there really are no miracles in the creation of art — it ended the series perfectly. And just like with every issue preceding it, I leant back after the more careful second-pass read and marvelled at the craft and love of TWD creator and writer Robert Kirkman, aided and abetted by artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard.

Without permission from comic-watch.com

TWD was a series that published regularly, each issue never failed to leave me figuratively gasping How the fuck are they going to resolve that?, mind reeling from cliffhangers and resolutions that were equally unexpected and inevitable, and counting the days until the next issue.

I’m sad that it’s finished but glad that it ended the way and when it did. I don’t know when I’ll be able to revisit the series at my leisure but it won’t be far away, in the Essential Section of the library.

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Fourteen Years

If you muffle the speakers a little, I think this might…

Okay, it’s a stretch.

But I do like this song. And since this is my website where I am the master of all that passes through it, it’s what we’re celebrating this site’s fourteenth anniversary with.

Onwards, ho.

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Layers

You’ve seen the shorthand in films: a paintbrush applying one layer of paint on canvas, then another, then another.

It’s how I write most scripts: an iterative approach where I can look back at the accumulated page count and tell myself that I’m getting somewhere.

I suppose if I wanted to work smart and efficient and not waste a droplet of writerly sweat, I could outline and storyline and break-it-down so that when it comes time to —

<scrippet>

FADE IN:

</scrippet>

— it all just pours out onto the page or screen, every character fully formed, their motivations crystal clear, every plot point essential and succinct, every word of dialogue pitch perfect, every character voice distinct and individual, every —

Pfft.

Whenever I stare down a project and need to decide whether to work smart and fast or layer by instinctive layer in a leisurely fashion, there’s no avoiding the work required: writing one damned word at a time.

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Sweat

Sweat spot on the swimming pool deck.

According to my exercise journal, I’ve huffed and puffed more often in the past month than in any other one month period over the last two decades.

Government mandated self-isolation will do that, I suppose.

I’m exercising locally. The weather has been pretty good for autumn-heading-into-winter — little rain, mostly mild temperatures — meaning fresh air has been plentiful as I wheeze about the property. The dogs, like their predecessor,  enjoy every moment  we’re out and about at pace.

I’ve had to extend the running route to local roads (sans hounds) where there is little to no shoulder. It’s do-able so long as I keep a weather eye on traffic and wear bright colours I haven’t worn since the 1990s.

I’m not writing as much as I’ve been sweating.  But in these uncertain times, I think achieving one thing at a time is pretty good.

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Comfort Reading

Without permission from cbr.com (https://www.cbr.com/committed-marshal-law-the-most-underrated-book-in-comics/).

My productivity has plummeted as I compulsively refresh news sites and follow social media. It’s the world out there, is what it is. What a start to 2020, huh?

It hasn’t all been sitting and staring at the Johns Hopkins tracking page, though.

Without permission from cbr.com (https://www.cbr.com/neil-gaiman-sandman-trivia/).

I’ve pulled some old favourites down from the shelves. They may not be the most appropriate for these times but if it gives me solace to spend time in a world where I know how things will end, I’ll take it.

Without permission from cbr.com (https://www.cbr.com/the-walking-dead-ways-comics-finale-is-perfect-fell-short/).

Stay safe. Take care of each other. Be kind.

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No Funny Business

INT. CINEMA, FORTRESS MAMEA -- DAY

Our PET WRITER feeds Mallowpuffs into his mouth at a concerning rate of knots considering his age while he watches the TELEVISION:

ON SCREEN

A Hero-type opens a door where a Villian-type greets them, pistol in hand. Hero-type reaches for the sky.

VILLAIN-TYPE

(on-screen)

... No funny business.

The image FREEZES as our Pet Writer pauses playback.

PET WRITER

(mouth full)

“Oh fuh buhnuh”?

He almost chokes -- remembers to swallow rest of Mallowpuff biscuit.

Our Pet Writer kills the playback altogether and the television goes black.

PET WRITER

“NO. FUNNY. BUSINESS”?

I get it.

Cliches are comforting, they’re a short hand, they’re a —

But there are limits.

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Hatchlings

It’s that time of year when baby birds drop out of nests — or nests themselves drop out of trees — and whomever chances across such sights must decide between nurture or nature. Much as I front as a man of the land, when I come across such a sight, the choice is obvious.

So, yeah: The Lovely Wife and I have been fostering some wayward chicks. It’s been a slide down memory lane: a small living being reliant on you for their ongoing survival, eating and shitting and eating and shitting every hour of the day as you continually make sure other family members keep their distance.

It’s not that different to shepherding a script or project along, one where you’re the passenger rather than driver, but it’s still something you believe in and hope to help along. It’s tiring and sometimes exasperating, and there might be a few moments where you might wonder to yourself how much easier it might have been to have let nature take its course.

But with each passing day, as you feed it carefully chosen words of encouragement, weathering the noise and smell and energy of it becoming, you notice small things. Things like feathers and claws and a preference for Chefs over Whiskas.

And then it’s time to let go. You can joke and chuckle that, thank goodness, it’s no longer your responsibility, and boy will the house smell better now.

Time for a new project — a new year — to start work on.

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