M is for Maud (and Rosie)

A couple weeks back, I watched the art documentary I Am Belfast. Though I’d never heard the term before, I understood after a few minutes of watching what makes an “art documentary” different from a regular documentary. I Am Belfast had fewer hard facts and more emotional impressions of the city the director (Mark Cousins) spent 20 years of his life in and is still incredibly fond of. The film’s narration was more of a conversation between Cousins and an old woman who played the role of the city. We’re taken to intersections, the sites of bombings, commemorative murals, and places where the Protestant streets end and the Catholic streets begin. We’re shown how things have changed, and told about the times that needed changing. The film shares anecdotes of the city’s past, and a possible vision of the future when the last bigot finally dies. It was…interesting. It’s obvious that Cousins still feels a lot of love for Belfast despite having left it — in fact he may feel so much precisely because he has left it (expat feelings…) — but I think I prefer the objectivity typical of your standard documentary.

All that aside, my absolute FAVORITE part of this movie was when Cousins chatted with two older ladies named Rosie and Maud. I can’t remember which was which, but those women were a TRIP. Especially the one who used the word “fuck” at least once in every sentence.

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“I met this f***in’ Yank. He took me out & got me drunk. He put me in a f***in’ taxi. When I got home, I opened the f***in’ door and fell out of the f***in’ car. My mam was like ‘The f**k’s wrong with you?’ and I was all ‘No! I’m fine! I’m fine!’ and me mam beat the f***in’ head o’ me. Then she said to my brother, ‘Get ‘er in the f***in’ house’.” This is my approximation of a story she told Mark Cousins. I probably didn’t get all the details exactly right, but this is the gist of that particular tale. It basically sealed her status as my hero for life.

Her friend was married and she wasn’t — she never married — but she had a common law husband. She said never having married technically means she’s “still a virgin,” and if someone wants to come handle that, they can. She said they wouldn’t need no “umbrella” neither. XD

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Her friend said the reason she married her husband is b/c he had black hair & reminded her of Elvis. One lady’s Catholic, the other is Protestant, and they’ve been friends for seven years. It may make me an immature jerk, but my biggest takeaway from I Am Belfast was that I wanna be like Rosie & Maud when I grow up.

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Seen any good art documentaries lately?

Happy Friday, y’all!

 

It’s OK not to finish a book.

Wellllllcome back to Writing Wednesday, errbody!

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Me, like, 90% of the time.

Do you finish every single book you start reading? Do you start reading, take a break and then pick it up later? If you don’t finish the book, do you feel guilty about it?

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I used to feel like the worst person EVER if a story I was reading started to drag and I even thought about putting it down for good. I basically felt duty-bound to finish every book whose cover I cracked. Like, this author took the time to write this story — I should take the time to read it, right?

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Dude, you’ve already paid for the book with hard earned/mooched cash. But even if you didn’t spend money — as in you borrowed it from a library or a friend — you still spent time choosing and/or reading the book! Reading (a good story) is fun, but it’s also a time commitment. That’s why so many people cite “not having time” as their reason for not reading in the first place. You’re going to spend at least a couple of hours on a novel. And that’s probably a short one. And when you add in those moments where you’re so blown away by a sentence or paragraph that you have to reread it, your reading time gets longer and longer.

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I’m finally at a point where I no longer feel bad about parting ways with a book I’ve started. Why feel bad? It’s not you, book, it’s me. Every book is not meant for every reader. Just like there are people you click with in life, there are stories you click with. And if you come across a story you’re not loving…

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Don’t feel bad. Your time is precious. Just think of all the other great books out there waiting for you!

How do you feel about leaving books unfinished?

L is for Life Diary

Whut up, y’all?!

Like I said Wednesday, and as you may have noticed, I haven’t been around much lately. So today’s episode is brought to you by the letter L for Life Diary, which just means I’m going to spew photos all over you from the last month or so and add helpful captions so you know what I’ve been up to lately. FYI, these photos are going backwards in time. Your scrolling hand just might start to ache. So heeeerrrreee we go!

A visitor showed up in our back garden the other day.

Choko spied on him…

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…and was an all-around beauty queen while doing it.

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Neal said “Beauty? Pshhh…I’m too tired for all that.”

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I spent an afternoon in Richmond, loving life…

…and had a deelicious steak, salad, and sweet potato fries for lunch at Buenos Aires (the restaurant, not the capital of Argentina).

Choko was her radiant self again during a photo shoot by the window.

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I got a new throw and a couple pillows from Home Base; the little ones tested them out…

…and Neal sunbathed on the rug.

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Things got a lil cray-cray when the bottom rail broke off of one of my living room windows.

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Remember my post about The Killing Joke and how it’s been adapted into an animated film? Well to celebrate, I went out and dropped crazy £££ on some comic/cartoon loot.

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I also went to Kopapa for the first time and had a tasty tuna steak.

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Neal tucked himself in since I didn’t get home fast enough to do it myself.

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I bought my first Jo Malone candle and felt like a fancy-schmancy adult.

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Velvet Rose & Oud. Amazing. I also bought Mimosa & Cardamom (but I haven’t started burning that one yet). Yes, that is a skeletal hand holding the candle. I’m a creepy little weirdo — didn’t you know?

I went back to my beloved Claridge’s for their Easter themed afternoon tea! The champagne was so good I shelled out for a second glass.

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I met up with Emma, Flick, Frankie, & Sophie at Dirty Bones for some good eats. I ordered The Asian hot dog: “kimchi ketchup, wasabi mayo, crispy seaweed, pickled sushi ginger and sesame seeds.” 😛 More pleeeasseee!

Neal did MORE sunbathing…

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…and looked kinda like roadkill…

I had a mega-good haggis toastie from Deeney’s at Broadway Market. I ordered the Hamish Macbeth, which is haggis, grated cheddar, rocket, caramelized onions, mustard, and bacon on granary bread. Try one. You won’t regret it.

I had the Charlie & the Chocolate Factory themed afternoon tea one day at One Aldwych. Quite good.

Neal decided that my desk chair looked better under him than me.

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And waaaaay back at the beginning of March, I returned to Cheltenham and my beloved No. 131 where I had good food and drink…

…saw some sights…

…and relaxed.

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So that’s what I’ve been up to for the past month-and-a-half! Well, that and trudging back and forth to the gym.

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…and preparing for a blizzard, clearly.

This weekend I’m heading to Bristol! I’ve only ever heard good things about it (a couple I sat next to in No. 131’s restaurant was from there and gave me another 50 reasons why I should go asap) so I’m excited to finally visit. 😀

What have you been up to lately?

Writing Wednesday: Reprise

Hi everybody.

I decided to do the alphabet deal as a way to shake things up here, but recently I was hit by how much I miss talking about writing on this site. So I’m bringing back Writing Wednesdays (in addition to the alphabet thing). This blog isn’t a niche blog — I talk about pretty much everything here. So why not (re)dedicate a day to only talking about the thing I’m constantly thinking about?

Quick aside: I just want to apologize for my inconsistency here. I always get bummed when bloggers I like to read just kind of drop off the face of the Earth. Not because I don’t understand that they’re living their lives, but because I miss hearing from them. Sorry if I’ve made anybody out there feel that way. Even if there’s only one of you.

Today, I thought I’d talk about characters. Note the “s” because I specifically want to address the effect that multiple characters can have on one’s reading experience.

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My primary example is a book I haven’t read in a few years: Needful Things by Stephen King. I was Skyping with a friend the other day and we started talking about Mr. King and the turn his writing has taken lately. We agreed that his earlier works are our favorites. She brought up Needful Things and said “I know you don’t care for that one.” She said that because of the (likely overly passionate) way I once expressed my main problem with that story.

First things first — I LOVE Needful Things. The concept, anyway. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a story about a mysterious curio shop that appears in one of King’s favorite fictional towns, Castle Rock, Maine (where Cujo and The Dead Zone and other works of his are also set). The shop contains random objects, each one of which is meant to appeal strongly to certain members of the town. There may be an item or two that catches the eye of two townspeople, but generally each person who comes in becomes fixated on something different. This is crazy brilliant because as a reader, you get to watch as these seemingly ordinary people become deranged over one particular item, and you discover the lengths each person will go to in order to get what they want. Leland Gaunt, the shop’s proprietor, doesn’t charge much for the rare items sold in his store, but he does ask (in addition to money) that a prank be played by the buyer on one of their neighbors. This neighbor is always someone whom the customer already has a tricky history with. As tensions escalate, Gaunt’s aim — to gradually tear the town apart — becomes clear. But he hasn’t targeted Castle Rock alone — this is merely one stop on his tour of destruction. Gaunt is often read as the Devil (not least b/c he tries to make off with the souls of his duped customers). Now not every single person in town is affected; Sheriff Alan Pangborn (a recurring character in King’s books) keeps his head and spends the length of the story trying to save the town from this new corrupting influence.

This story sounds bad-ass, right? It is! But…for me, there are too many characters. The large-ish ensemble cast is something that a few of King’s earlier stories have in common. This is one story in particular where that doesn’t work for me. LOVE the idea and what the story is illustrating about how little it takes for a person to completely relinquish their autonomy, but he often ends his chapters on a cliff-hanger. This is perfect as a way to build suspense, BUT by the time I cycle back around to each character, I need to rebuild my interest in their story. I always do become interested in them again, but that period between my anger and disappointment over leaving the last character and the time when I’m back to enjoying what I’m reading is a critical period. I hate the feeling of starting over again while reading something that I’m really enjoying. King does have mercy on readers from time to time in this story and sometimes continues following the same character for two chapters in a row, but that’s not the norm.

If you want a reader to follow multiple characters, I feel the number should be kept small (as in three at the most) or care should be taken to connect each section to the one before it and the one after.  The connector in this story is the shop, right? Each character we’re following has been affected by the shop in one way or another. But that’s not enough. Give the reader a concrete link between sections; something specific, not something every single chapter has in common (I mean, the whole book is about the shop!). This commonality could be a phrase, a gesture, an observation…anything. But something particular. Micro, not macro.

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What are your thoughts on lots of characters?

Hope you’re well 🙂

Happy Wednesday!

K is for The Killing Joke

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it is literally going to take me until the end of time to make it through the alphabet on this blog XD I wish I could tell you life has gotten so head-explodingly exciting that it’s near impossible for me to find even a single, spare moment to blog. I wish I could tell you that.

But something exciting IS happening this summer. Well, something that cartoon & comics-obsessed nerds like me find exciting. What is this thing I probably won’t care about, you ask?! The seminal 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke is being adapted and released as an animated feature. AND the original cast of voice actors from Batman: The Animated Series (AKA one of the best cartoons EVER MADE) are climbing back into their old roles. This means my favorite Joker of all time, Mark Hamill, will be (figuratively) donning his purple suit again, and I couldn’t be happier.

The Killing Joke is the product of a collaboration between two comic book giants and members of the “British Invasion” into American comics in the 80s, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. Moore’s name is likely familiar to you; he’s the writer behind Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman — all of which were adapted to the big screen — not to mention a gang of other comic classics. He also created John Constantine…

…another comic book character I bet you’ve heard of thanks to good ole Keanu.

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Brian Bolland is an illustrator who specializes in awesome AF cover art, mostly for DC Comics.

Bolland did both the cover and interior art for The Killing Joke. According to Bolland’s afterword in the deluxe edition of The Killing Joke, he asked Alan Moore to collaborate with him on the project after having “known each other for quite a while and [having] narrowly missed working together a couple of times.” He also says that despite the project “not [being] a labor of love” for Moore, he is glad Moore agreed to write the story. I think a lot of people, myself included, are glad this collab happened. I mean, look at this:

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If you’re thinking, “that looks pretty f*cking intense,” you’re right.

The Killing Joke centers on the day that changed the Joker forever from average Joe to psychopath, and his philosophy that it only takes “one bad day” to take a person from normal to off their rocker. The story takes place in present-day Gotham, and begins with Batman seeking the Joker out at Arkham Asylum for a chat. He believes they’re doomed to kill each other in the end unless they sit down and talk things over once and for all. But the Joker has, once again, escaped. The Joker is on a mission to prove that even the sanest man on Earth will go crazy if he has an adequately horrific experience. As he’s putting his plan into action, Joker flashes back to the day his life went irrevocably off course.

Jack, an amateur comedian with a wife and a baby on the way, needs money badly. He agrees to help some crooks navigate through a chemical plant he used to work in so they can break into the playing card factory next door. The day he’s meant to go through with it, he learns that his wife died in a freak accident at home. Even though he no longer has a reason to be involved in the heist, the crooks won’t let him off the hook. He attempts to do the deed, but gets caught in the process. The crooks are killed in a gunfight with plant security, but then Batman arrives intending to take Jack in. Jack jumps into the water surrounding the plant and escapes, but when he removes the helmet he’s been wearing to resemble the leader of the crook’s gang, The Red Hood, he finds that the water, tainted by acid, has changed him.

The flashback isn’t fed to you in one go; you get bits and pieces of it as the story progresses. One of my favorite things about this graphic novel is the way the transitions are done. When we leave one character to follow another, or when we jump between the past and the present, the actions in the last panel of one section are mirrored in the next.

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While this book presents only one of many origin stories attributed to the Joker over the years, the events of TKJ have since become canon — primarily, the shooting of Barbara Gordon (the Commissioner’s daughter) aka Batgirl. In later comics, she is reintroduced as Oracle, a paraplegic computer genius who gets information for the cops and crime-fighters of Gotham City in order to help them catch criminals.

The same team behind Batman: The Animated Series is handling the adaptation of The Killing Joke, which means this thing is gonna be good. It has to be. ::knocksonwood::

If you’re interested, here’s a behind-the-scenes video on the making of the animated adaptation of The Killing Joke.

Happy Wednesday, y’all!