TWO FISTED HOMEOPAPE April/18 - The Spicy Cough Edition
Writing my own lighthouse story.
♫ I applied for a rescue dog,
But if I get you dog,
You're rescuing me ♫
2022 -- bounce.
Time enough at last.
So I got myself the spicy cough, the Mambo Number 19, the damn pandemic lurgy. And I feel an idiot about it. I’ve spent 2 years being crazy vigilant. Even when mask mandates haven’t been on, I’ve been wrapping my grill up. I hand sanitise constantly. I just stopped going out on random unnecessary trips. I have genuinely been determined to just not get Covid, ever. I thought this was attainable. Surely some of us would make it through without it touching our precious lungs.
And the sad truth is, I think it could have been a realistic goal. But I went visiting family over the weekend, and I was at a comic convention, and I wasn’t masked up the whole time. I know I should have been. I’ve worn masks in less crowded situations. But for some reason, I switched my brain off and thought it would be fine - I still hand sanitised constantly, I was behind a table, and I put the mask on when I went for a wander through the crowds. But it still got me - and I’m only assuming I got it from the con based on rough dates around symptoms, testing, etc. I could have got it going down to buy ice cream with the kids, who knows, really?
But I still feel annoyed with myself. I’ve gotten myself sick. I’ve risked infecting my children. If I could do it over, I would do it completely differently because I’d do it more in line with how I’ve been conducting myself over the past two years. That’s the frustrating part, not the act of catching it, the fact it’s a fall from grace, and the fact it’s a lapse in judgement. And if you’re wondering, yes, this is how I view most things about myself, and yes, it is exhausting, and no, I don’t ever put other people under the same expectations [well, maybe my kids, I’m working on that].
Being infectious - my symptoms haven’t been dire, a mild cough, a very decent headache - means I’ve been locked away in my office all week. I have a futon to sleep on, books/comics to read, and a computer on which I can work. My family have been amazing at bringing me food and coffee, and I set up a water cooler on my desk so I can stay hydrated and not need to go out anymore than I have to.
On the first day of full isolation I marked a whole class of assessments that I was planning on trickling out over the coming week. Smashed them. Then I wanted to write 2 pages of comic script, I instead wrote 4. I read 3 trades of the Lark/Brubaker Daredevil run, and did some rereading of The Leftovers so I can annotate it before I teach it. The day was crazy productive. I ended it by watching the Marvel Zombies episode of What If…? And I’m glad I didn’t watch it with the kids, it really is fairly intense. Then I watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as I went to bed because by then my brain was cooked and it was a comfort crime flick to watch and semi-doze through.
The first two nights I’ve slept well until I wake in the middle of the night sweating and shivering. A quick dose of some modern pharmaceuticals and a bit of willpower and I sleep right through again.
The second day, I was less productive. I could feel my brain struggling to concentrate. I still wrote 3 pages of comic script. And did some reading of The Leftovers. Then did some unit planning for a few weeks of teaching creative writing. But my mind really had to be locked down to focus on those things. I could feel the cabin fever kind of creeping in, and it was only Day Two. I cannot fathom how some people have gone through longer lockdowns and been completely isolated, it’s a wild trip for the brain. All previous lockdowns I’ve had full access to my wife, my two kids, our amazing backyard, and usually a full time job to do that’s given me more than enough focus. But just 2 days into complete isolation, and no actual day job [I’m on school holidays] and my mind was fried. Well, I probably exaggerate a little, I just wasn’t the 150% intensity and focus of the previous day and so any step down might as well be a plunge out of the clouds of heaven and a pindrop into the boiling ichor of hell. Gawd, so much laborious exaggeration.
My point most likely is: big ups to those who did/do isolation solo and still remain a somewhat healthy flow of okay. For days/weeks/months. It’s for a good cause, to slow the rate of infection, and the way I’ve been coughing like I’ve not coughed in…years, tells me it’s the right thing to do. Doesn’t mean it’s pleasant, so I appreciate it. Hopefully everyone finds the support they need. I found being productive good, but also getting away from my screen - locked in my office meant I could write and be online 24/7, and that’s just not a good thing. So I sat down in a sweet brown chair, and did some reading, too.
And it reminded me I want to read more. Read more Daredevil. Read some Walking Dead. Finish The Leftovers. Read Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys. Read my brother, Marc Lindsay’s, latest novel, Coven. Watch a few more movies, I don’t even know which ones yet. Finish this script for this issue #1, and then polish it, and refine it, and get it singing before I send it in. Getting the brain moving gets everything flowing along.
But I also know I need to heal, and then I can get back to my family. They don’t *need* me, but boy oh boy do I *want* them.
My Lighthouse at Kindred Rocks.
To keep my brain moving, when it felt like it was sinking into the Bog of Eternal Stench [another name for my office after a few days of iso], I decided to do something just fun. I opened my one-page solo rpg writing game, The Lighthouse at Kindred Rocks, and I started playing it myself.
To play, I just roll two d20s and then look at the prompt table, and then started loosely mapping out what would happen in the story from those prompts.
The set up is this: my father has just died, getting me to return to my hometown of Kindred Rocks, and both bory him and take his job as the Lighthouse Keeper, because my life outside the town was shit and turning shitter anyway. So that’s the set up and start, and from there I need to figure out: how’d my father really die, and what eldritch insanity is buried in the secrets of my town.
When I sat down, I tried to consider what the solutions to these two problems might be, but that’s anathema to the whole concept. You are supposed to figure that out as you wind and wend through the prompts, so I shut my brain off on that track, rolled twice, once for each mystery, and started plotting out responses that would slowly form the story.
The first two prompts are pasted in here, and then I put my plotting beneath them.
Father - +3
Sitting in the park on a quiet day, you are approached by someone who knew your father. Why do they want to talk to you about something urgent?
Your father’s mistress - an old lady, runs the local inn - who tells you your father was distressed over the past week. He would come in for a pint, and then leave without staying and he wouldn’t be at home when she checked. He said something about there being something out in the woods that worried him.
Eldritch Secrets - -3
You visit an old tree where you once carved some initials. Memories flood back, and one sticks in your mind on this day. Who is this memory linked to?
You go to the woods, with this information, and you find a tree where you carved a high school sweetheart’s initials with your own. You were two young ladies, close friends, and she was always fending off the advances of a local bully, so you two would wander hand in hand to give him the shits. You carved your name into the tree, but a year later she would leave the town and you’d be left all alone, wishing you’d asked for more. Or did she not leave, you just drifted apart because you knew you wanted more and you did not want to ask her for it.
You can ‘view’ the whole document here, it’s 100% a work in progress, and the kind of thing I’d want to then go back up the chain to tidy up, but I’m definitely having loose fun with it and my brain needs that. And I have to say, discovering the story as you go along, just blindly leapfrogging from one stepping stone of a set up to another, has been a whole new experience. I very much kinda love it.
PERHAPS YOU'D CARE TO SAMPLE
…Australian Election coverage? It’s not “fun” but it is right to be informed, and not just by morning news updates because those schlock “journalists” are not out for intelligent discussion, or hard questions, but are really only there to stir up mild annoyance. Seek out proper coverage from a variety of sources, watch whole interviews, and before we vote next month know what issues you are holding as most important and which people align with your thinking on those issues.
This isn’t a vote about two men, it’s not even a vote about parties. It’s a vote about issues and solutions and the future. I’m looking at who cares about the future, about the environment, about education, and I’m putting my vote on the line there.
GRIST FOR THE MILL
KISS KISS BANG BANG - I love the structure on this Shane Black crime flick. The meandering way new plot points get dropped in the way of Robert Downey Jr’s Harry Lockhart is just old pulp gold. I dig the way Lockhart breaks the fourth wall with his narration, and I think the flick could have leaned into that more, honestly. It’s a fun thing and you hate to see it disappear just to make the whole story move more smoothly. I want the experience, not just the clarity/ease. It reminds me of Leonardo DiCaprio using his narration to change the colour of the car he’s driving in the start of The Wolf of Wall Street, but then his narration never gets that interesting or engaging again. A lost opportunity.
I’m a huge Shane Black fan overall, but I think there’s something to be said for viewing his flicks with an overall feminist lens because the way women are interchangable in this flick, used as plot points, and generally are defined by their sexual relationships is somewhat problematic. But Black seems to want to address these thoughts through Harry’s character who desperately loves the girl he knew in high school, but is also hung up on her sleeping with everyone but him. He’s a character with a moral code, but one that almost stands in his way because it still objectifies women and sticks them into a box. I’m not completely unpacking it with justice, but it would be worth doing because I know Lethal Weapon is not great for women, but The Long Kiss Goodbye could be seen as elevating the female lead with agency [I’d have to watch it again to see if that’s true]. I know The Nice Guys is similar to KKBB in that the women are often plot points and murder victims. But he put Pepper Potts in her own Rescue suit in Iron Man 3.
I’d wager that Shane Black is someone with his heart in the right place, but not always knowing exactly how to express it, and he seems a little stuck between times. I love the structure and tone he puts into his scripts, so I’ll always appreciate his works, but I think there’s always merit in seeing the problems and then using that knowledge to know how to avoid it for your own story creation in the future - or story consumption yourself or with your kids. Always be thinking. And here’s some more to think about, Shane Black gives 10 really bloody good tips about writing action stories.
This does then segue into me thinking about the next thing I’ve read which is the Michael Lark/Ed brubaker run on Daredevil. I’ve read the first half of this run, the whole Mr Fear Saga [my name, not theirs] and I’ve loved it just as much as the first time I read it *checks indicia* ~15 years ago. Matt Murdock is the best tragic figure in modern literature, and Brubaker sets up a noir pit into which he falls. But it’s also hard not to see how women are trashed in this run.
SPOILERS [for a 15 year old comic]: Mr Fear’s whole thing is to ruin Murdock’s life, so he sends his wife, Milla Donovan, insane and finally reveals there’s no antidote to his insanity gas. She’s now insane for life. Hey presto, Matt’s life is indeed ruined. But so is Milla’s, as a plot point, to torment our lead character. It’s a complete ‘women in fridges’ moment, which sucks, but it also serves every other character - Matt’s always been terrible at insulating the women in his life from his masked enemies, many have died, horribly, and it makes sense that this is how Mr Fear would get to him, because he knows it’ll work. He openly doesn’t want to kill Matt, he wants him ruined. It almost couldn’t be done any other way, but it’s a shame to see Milla really have little to no agency in the story. Neither does Lily Lucca, the patsy damsel sent in to cause a lot of Matt’s other worries in the lead up to this without any actual end goal of her own except maybe some basic survival.
Dakota North is the strong, independent PI who doesn’t mind calling Matt on his shit. She’s got her own skills, and C Plot moves, in the story. But I also know I’m now about 10 issues away from her sleeping with Matt and becoming another notch on his anguished bedpost, and I’ll be interested to see how she’s handled through all that. I’m assuming as a peripheral to Matt’s central torment. A plot token on his downward spiral.
So, with a feminist lens, this run has some issues. But, how much can I separate that from a run I’ll hold up as my favourite run on my favourite character of all time? As a noir story, with Matt Murdock at the centre, it’s a stunning portrayal of violence and bad choices. By design, the story is Matt choosing his downfall at every turn because inside he really is the worst, despite many best intentions. Can I still appreciate a story that’s got some shitty moments for women in it? If it’s 15 years old, and I plan to then learn from it, yeah, I think I can.
Can I see how Brubaker exists in a similar time/frame as Black in that they were raised on this kind of fiction, in this kind of world, and that deep change for them isn’t instant? And that for every woman fridged [and Brubaker actually has quite a few of them, especially in his crime comics] there’s a glimpse of some really rich women in their stories, too [well, maybe not 1-for-1]. I find it important to note these writers are excellent at their craft, and genuine in their care for the people they know and those they write, but that they are steeped in decades of subtle and ubiquitous cultural sexism [among other things] and it’s bound to come out when you centre a man in the story and aim to make him suffer. Doesn’t make it right, but it uses context to understand it. And I believe understanding it is half of the battle in not repeating it. It’s all something I continue to think about and try to notice.
JOJO RABBIT - How the hell did Taika Waititi make this film? A weird comedy about a kid in the Hitler Youth, I just cannot fathom how this even came about. With Waititi himself playing this weird daydream Hitler, and a role he did little to no preparation/research for because he didn’t think Hitler was worth the effort. Baller *and* genius.
Be one of the good guys, because there's way too many of the bad.
POST CREDITS SEQUENCE
All I can do is think about stuff. Then eventually share it. Bounce ideas off others because beyond thought, perspective is the key, and that has to come from outside sometimes.
I hope I don’t stop asking dumb questions sometimes. I know I need to get better at listening to what people are actually telling me. Really hearing it frmo them, and not from what I think of them.
Again, awareness is the first step.