criticism

Criticism is weird here. I’ve long maintained that in any forum I might run, I would not censor, but as I see the way free speech is manipulated by those who would use it to sow dissent and spread misinformation, I start to see some value in minimizing voices that would lie or demean.

Free speech, after all, isn’t total and doesn’t free anyone of consequences. That’s the part these right wingers forget: you can say what you want, sure, but that’s as far as the right goes. It doesn’t mean anyone has to listen, and it doesn’t mean they need to provide you with a platform, or that there won’t be consequences for the things you say.

On the other hand, I find the left-leaning outrage machine can often create its own chilling effect. Those in defense of a cause can often fail to see nuance or see offense where none is intended and dog pile on. That can make many people unwilling to engage or say anything, which is the same as speech suppression. In all things, we should endeavour to listen first and react only after we’ve taken the full picture into account.

A good example to me is Tomb Raider. The Angelina Jolie movies weren’t great movies, definitely a product of the late 90s, early 2000s “extreme”, but to me, the character was played far more true than the 2018 version. However, any criticism of the 2018 movie, no matter how poor, went out of its way to praise Alicia Vikander, who played the character well, I suppose. The problem was that the character wasn’t Lara Croft. Lara is independent, confident, a daredevil. She doesn’t whimper or cower in the face of adversity. She is intelligent and skilled.

Vikander’s version spends most of the movie behaving like a scared rabbit. She’s lacking in skill and other than a penchant for solving puzzles, she doesn’t demonstrate anything more than mildly above average intelligence. She plays the role like she’s in a horror movie, as though we’d transported some 1970s final girl into an Indiana Jones movie. The movie itself isn’t that bad, and Vikander’s performance is solid for what it is.

The problem is that it has no connection to the character she’s intendend to portray, beyond some hamfisted plot insertions and name drops. The movie itself actually suffers from being given the Tomb Raider name; had it kept the plot and been stripped of Croft family, it might actually have played quite well. But because the inevitable comparison to the source material and the already well defined version by Jolie, all we get is a Lara Croft stripped of strength, wit and courage. She’s not a badass; she’s a wimp who gets very, very lucky.

Of course, any and all criticism of Vikander’s portrayal movie was chalked up to misogyny, as though all we wanted was some Pamela Anderson-busted chick in hotpants. And truly, there were undoubtedly people whose only real complaint was that Lara Croft had been stripped of her most noticeable asset(s). Fuck those people. To me, that’s a problem easily overcome by a strong performance and a good script.

The much bigger and far less misogynist problem is that they didn’t just drop Lara’s most prominent (again, easily ignored by a strong performance) physical attribute. They also stripped her of intelligence, courage, confidence, wit and the self-assured and almost playful sense of rebellious independence fans of the character have come to know. It felt like a watered down rehash of Evie in V For Vendetta, but with none of the redemptive emergence of strength. And again, if the character being played had not been Lara Croft, it’s a performance to be praised, for a character developed entirely on her own without the stigma of prior history. You wouldn’t play Romeo as a dude too aloof to get caught up by some girl; you don’t play a rebellious, tomb raiding daredevil as a simpering little girl being pushed around by men. It would be acceptable if it were being played as an early, unmolded version of the character; in that case though, we should see flashes of the woman she would become. This feels like a totally different person, matched in name alone.

The reviews for the movie naturally fell into two camps: those of the beta cuck boys stuck in their basement lamenting over the fact that Lara doesn’t look like a porn star (which is what they really want – someone to ogle through some action shots) and those who wanted to pan the whole damn thing but were so worried about being labelled misogynist for disliking Vikander’s portrayal that they went overboard the other way to cover their tracks, panning everything but her. (See also Ghostbusters: Answer The Call, which is a completely run-of-the-mill comedy, not special, not terrible, had its moments, but if you read the favourable reviews, it was the single greatest female-led comedy of all time and anyone who said otherwise was a woman hating monster).

Shrug. To me, the endgame should be getting away from the outrage machine and the talking out my ass/lying and twisting things to suit my narrative regime. Both are chilling and discourage quality conversation.

To me, praise and criticism are earned, not automatic. Praise should be garnered for what you did well; criticism is an opportunity to re-evaluate. If you did something truly horrible, well, you’re going to suffer through some shit. Your best bet is to try and understand why, learn what you can from it and move the fuck on.

roses and violets

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Hearts are black
And lungs are bruised
Legs are weary
Head aches
I’ve gone too far
Before I wake
The road behind
Is trampled waste
Lessons learned
And lost in haste
Roses red
And dipped in black
Falling slowly
Down my back
Burning muscles
Acid lungs
I’ve come to know
My race is run
And if I die before I wake
May someone find
What I meant to make

the mungk – reading list

I read. A lot. Not everything I read is mindblowing or revolutionary. I appreciate a good solid straightforward story as much as the next guy and I’m far less interested in reading the “right” books than in reading things that are enjoyable or bring me a perspective other than my own. Understanding another perspective doesn’t necessarily imply agreement, of course, and sometimes, a book just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t really enjoy rating things, because I think it’s a little gauche. Lists of greatest songs or movies or whatever bore me. What might feel like a number one to me today may feel like a number eighty-six tomorrow, depending on what’s going on. Sometimes, something cheesy will strike me in the right way and bring me to tears. See or hear it again ten years down the road and I’ll think, wow, that’s bad.

Mostly, I’m reading through my extended library (which as a guy who lives off e-books and has a full attic library, is a lot).

Anyway, here’s the stuff that blew my mind while I was working on The Mungk.

One Small Step Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way – Robert Maurer
Is Your Genius At Work? – Dick Richards (yep, Dick Dicks, for reals)
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark – Michelle McNamara
Radical Acceptance – Tara Brach
The Practicing Mind – Thomas Sterner
People Of The Deer – Farley Mowat

As you can tell, I was working through a little bit, trying to find some good old fashioned personal development. Sterner’s terrific; everything I found Tolle was not. I wanted to delve into some classics, and Farley Mowat fits the bill as a fellow Canadian. I was suitably blown away.

This is the stuff that I really liked, but for some reason or another, found something just a little off about that didn’t connect. Stylistic questions, a viewpoint that I didn’t quite agree with or minor plot hole – that kind of thing.

Getting Things Done – David Allen
Face It – Debbie Harry
The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher
SexRx – Lauren Streicher
Good Sex – Jessica Graham
If Chins Could Kill: Confessions Of A B-Movie Actor – Bruce Campbell
Welcome To Night Vale – Joseph Fink/Jeffrey Cranor
Dancing Barefoot – Wil Wheaton
The Art Of Non-Conformity – Chris Guillebeau
Hammered – Elizabeth Bear

I don’t typically care about celebrity or their bios, but I deeply admire Carrie Fisher and Debbie Harry (the latter being one of the first women I obsessed over as a kid, along with Kelly LeBrock from Weird Science). And who doesn’t love Bruce Campbell or Wil Wheaton? Night Vale is a guilty pleasure. Elizabeth Bear filled my sci-fi quota. The sex books? Well, what can I say? Sex is great. Finding ways to improve it is never a bad thing.

These represent things I found entertaining, but not really mindblowing. Standard fare, basically. Not bad, not amazing, just decent or enjoyable.

Get It Done When You’re Depressed – Julie Fast
The Power Of Less – Leo Babauta
Start With Why – Simon Sinek
The Sorrows Of Young Werther – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The Fire Starter Sessions – Danielle Laporte
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies – Seth Grahame-Smith
Gregor The Overlander – Suzanne Collins
Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris
High Hunt – David Eddings
The Sword Of Shannara – Terry Brooks

I’m sorry, I wanted to like it more, but nothing can make Jane Austen not at least a little boring to read for me, not even zombies.

The next bit is stuff that didn’t resonate. It had some redeeming quality, like I didn’t think it was total trash, but yeah. Wasn’t great.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach
Hot Sex – Emily Morse
The Power Of Less – Eckhart Tolle
Aesop’s Fables – Aesop

I realize there’s probably some stuff people will give me shit on there, but JLS is intensely patronizing and Aesop’s casual reinforcement of racism and hierarchy didn’t sit well. I actually wanted to give Hot Sex a 1, for being little more than an oversized Cosmo article from someone who came across as having done their research on listicles and PornHub, not reality, but I did appreciate the willingness to go beyond standard positions, I guess. Tolle’s little more than a grifter ripping off Taoism and Buddhism, and using demagogue tactics to set himself up as a new Messiah. Pro tip: if the author of a self-help book spends all his time trying to establish how much better they are than everyone else, they’re an egomaniac trying to grift you out of your hard-earned dollars, not someone who genuinely cares about enlightenment or personal development. I gave it a two only because presence is an important concept in happiness and that’s it. Thomas Sterner’s The Practicing Mind is essentially the same book, but with all Eckhart Tolle’s insane ego stripped out, and the concept made much more practical. I mean, Tolle mansplains periods, creates his own Revelations and afterlife, constantly compares himself to Jesus, the Buddha and Lao Tzu, and basically endorses faith healing. Repugnant. How anyone takes him seriously, I don’t know. The whole book reads like a testament to his ego, even as he rails against your ego. He sounds like the Donald Trump of new age mysticism.

Anyway, enough ranting. The last part are books that I found little to no redeeming value in. Either they were just bad, or morally repulsive.

Choose Yourself – James Altucher
Ultimate Power – Tony Robbins
I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell – Tucker Max

the mungk – playlist

I love music. I’m an old school punk and grunge kid from the eighties and nineties, though in the last couple of decades, my musical tastes have radically expanded. I’ll listen to anything from Billie Holiday or Frankie Valli to Anti-Flag to Alessia Cara. While writing The Mungk, I listened to thousands of songs, starting with Los Angeles by X and finally Popcorn by Muse, with stops ranging from AFI to Joni Mitchell to Katy Perry to The Tragically Hip (a lot of Hip – there always is. I listened to Get Back Again over three dozen times while writing that piece, now in Retreats From Oblivion).

Anyway, music is such an intricate part of art for me, that I inevitably can’t help creating playlists to match the bigger works that I write. Sometimes, it’s a song that caught my ear in the act of writing or editing and fit so perfectly, I can’t hear it without thinking about that scene or its emotions. Other times, it’s tongue in cheek or counterintuitive, but somehow, just works.

The playlist for The Mungk is as follows:

The House In The Country: Julian Plenti – Skyscraper (3:18)
The First Appearance Of The Mungk: Alice Cooper – Welcome To My Nightmare (2:48)
We’ll Get You A Nightlight: The Who – Helpless Dancer (2:34)
What Does That Mungk Do?: Nirvana – Drain You (3:44)
Cracks: L7 – Crackpot Baby (2:38)
The Doctor: Snow Patrol – Run (5:57)
Goodbye, Alice: Violent Femmes – I Know It’s True, But I’m Sorry To Say (5:06)
Alice Aftermath: Billy Talent – Living In The Shadows (3:16)
The Fight: INXS – Never Tear Us Apart (3:07)
Bumps In The Night: The Rolling Stones – Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow? (2:37)
The Power Goes Out: The Tragically Hip – Frozen In My Tracks (4:04)
The Storm: Bruce Springsteen – My Father’s House (5:08)
The Aftermath: Beck – Morning (5:20)

the mungk

I was going to rant about how my work can’t leave me alone for even one day, just one goddamn day that I called in sick, the first in ages, so I can finish this thing called The Mungk, but fuck them.

The Mungk has owned my brain for the last three-plus months. Three months of spiralling down the drain into hopelessness, hoping that this thing is worthy of being published.

Trauma, microaggressions, the general malevolence of the universe, that’s been my focus for the past ninety-nine days, and it has taken its toll.

Add to that a hostile, abusive work environment, where the relief of getting away from those deceitful, lazy shits we had as contractors never materialized because head office couldn’t be bothered to follow through on replacing them, and you’ve got an interior that feels like it’s been scraped out with acid all of the time.

The Mungk is a manifestation of my worst impulses, my great fatalism. It is hopefully the first in a series of novels, each hopefully moving toward a life and canon that is better all the time, not just in execution, but in outlook.

I’m sorry if I bum you out. Life sucks sometimes. Life sucks a lot of time these days. The Mungk has me so often that it’s nightmarish and the relentless imposition and unwillingness to allow for any leeway of the people around me has me running for asylum (or an asylum, or a body bag). The pride I felt at finishing this, the joy of finishing it and letting go, completely overshadowed by the demands of assholes who refuse to listen when I try and set any kind of boundary.

Anyway, The Mungk is coming. Sell first, publish later, pray for enough revenue to leave this place forever.

The assholes don’t get to win.

the sprint

Production manuscript done. A few last details tomorrow and I can settle down with a nice glass of quality whiskey (Wayne Gretzky No. 99 Red Cask – No.99 for the number of days this took) and a Rohangel Laguito No.3 cigar.

A few more tiny steps.

shunned

Working on the submission manuscript today, whole hog. The whole deal.

Courier 12. Proper margins and indents. Page breaks.

The little stuff. I try not to make mistakes and I’m not always great at this kind of hyper-focused super detail, but only when I get distracted by depression or stress. When I’m on, nothing gets by me. That’s where I am today.

Hyper-focused, doing my best not to let the little things get to me. Not to let this encroaching pressure crush me.

I can’t deal with other people’s shit today.

manuscripting

This is it. The grand finale. Tomorrow, a submission manuscript properly formatted via Shunn, and then a production manuscript for my own little world – something I can PDF.

Something that should this quirky, dark little novella not get accepted anywhere, can be used as a template for self-publishing. Maybe a podcast?

I don’t know. We’re a long way away from that.

father’s day

I’m not a traditional father, in that I inherited my kids through my wife as they were closer to leaving for college than being born. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them and don’t want to help them out in any way I can.

I just skipped the part with poopy diapers.

I’m okay with that. Other people’s feces is not my thing, in literal fact, if not in metaphorical. In metaphorical, I feel like I’m smeared with shit all the time.

Some of it, naturally, is my own.

Anyway, pleasant thoughts on this day to celebrate the men who take care of their children, and not the ones that ran away.