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Nice is a four-letter word

Nice is a quality that is dangerous… I think some people’s definition of nice is obedient… and when you have a problem… when you feel that someone is taking advantage of a situation and you feel that you’re not allowed to say no because we’ve put the quality of niceness on such a pedestal, I think that’s crappy — Anna Kendrick, CBC q interview with Tom Power, November 2016

Nice — pleasant, agreeable, satisfactory.
Obedient — complying or willing to comply with orders or requests; submissive to another’s will.

Like Kendrick, and probably a whole lot of other similarly-minded people, I don’t put a lot of stock in the word ‘nice’. Nice is a four-letter word. Nice is not a character trait worth boasting about. Does anyone consider ‘nice’ a character trait? If it is a character trait, it’s one of the worst traits to be saddled with. Who wants to be described as nice? It so descriptively general and bland.

And yes, people do get ‘nice’ confused with ‘obedient’. It confuses me, too. Especially when people expect me to be nice when what they really want is me to be submissive to their whims and misguided / misinformed desires. This is something I’ve dealt with my entire life. I know I’m not alone in this experience. it’s probably far more common than anyone can imagine. For me, it’s not a constant, but it simmers and threatens to bubble over and burn from time to time. And it’s only because I’ve made the decision to be ‘nice’, i.e. ‘obedient’ that I don’t have third degree burns. But then again, the burns are not the kind that are visible to the naked eye.

The expectation to be nice is a form of control in a community of more than one person. It is also a form of control that is easily used in moments of passive-aggressive behaviour and in acts of veiled malice. I also happen to think it’s part of the patriarchal construct I occasionally rage against.

I’ve had this conversation with a handful of very close friends. Actually, the conversations were more like analytical and spirited rantings than anything else. I won’t get into the specifics of the rants. I’ll just be ‘nice’. For now. Because I’m at a point in my life where I’m more than willing to take the third degree burns if it means I get the pleasure of denying someone’s attempts to bend my will on any request or suggestion I fundamentally have no intention of complying to.

Burn me… expect to be burned in return. Either by me or by someone else. Nobody escapes unscathed.

If it sounds like I’m might be mad, you might be right. In fact, you are right. I’m mad about being expected to be nice. I’m mad about being expected to be forgiving because that’s a part of being ‘nice’. I’m pretty sure I’ve never said the words “I forgive you” to anyone. Yep, that would be correct. Never have. Not saying that I never will. I just never met anyone who was actually worth saying those words to, in a genuine and sincere way.

If you think it sounds a little cruel or that I have a black heart, I could say ‘fuck you’, but I would say you are sorely mistaken, instead. To be nice, opens the door and allows the wrong people to misuse and abuse your good nature and apparent ‘niceness’. I’ve seen that happen enough times to be skeptical of those who I know are capable of the abuse and to be skeptical whenever my instincts light up to tell me something’s off.

I can be nice. But more specifically, I can be generous, and I am generous, with my good will and my friendship. Like everyone on this planet, I just happen to be more generous with it, when it comes to specific individuals or communities because I know I’m emotionally and physically safe with them. I know instinctually where their hearts lie. Plus, they’ve proven to me who they are as human beings, and I’ve done the same in return.

Nice and obedient are not the same thing, folks. Let’s get that straight.

Let’s also get something straight, too…

If people continue to confuse those two words with regards to me, you will find out quickly that I’m neither nice nor obedient.

Need more stamped pages in the passport

Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought — Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Research can be fun. And you might be asking yourself whether or not I’m a glutton for punishment or have a bizarre definition of fun.

If you’re doing research for your job, then okay, fun might be questionable depending on what it is you’re being asked to look for and examine. Right now, I’ve been unfortunate that some of the research I’ve had to do for work has been interesting and enlightening.

But I’m not really focussing on work-related research right now. I’m more interested in the research related to my writing. Recently, wanderlust has been attempting to settle itself into my bones. As much as I would like to pick up and leave right now to regions unexplored, it’s not going to happen just yet.

Work on the current writing project has me wanting to explore a specific region of the North American continent. The flight has been booked and the only thing I need to figure out is how much ground can I cover once I’m there. Nine days doesn’t seem long enough because of time constraints so it’ll be jam-packed if I do this correctly. If I had my druthers, it would be three weeks of field research, not nine days. Oh well.

I relish doing this kind of research because it addresses my wanderlust. But then I forget how tired I can be after doing something like this. Invigorated but tired. Working vacations/field research tend to have that effect. But I think I’ve factored in enough decompression time that I won’t be telling colleagues when I return to work that I need a vacation from my vacation.

I told my best friend about the research trip because who doesn’t want to escape for a little while. She wanted to come with me but her life is pretty busy so it’s not going to happen this time. One day, we are going to travel together to some fun location and have the time of our lives. Still have no idea where that would be since she’s travelled to more places than I have. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind having a few more stamps in my passport. Well, maybe a lot more stamps. Hopefully, it will happen. Travel is on my top ten list but not the top five. Not too concerned about it right now.

Another field trip. It gets the heart beating a little faster. It refocusses the energy. Yep, I’m ready.

Sound, imagery inextricably linked

I listen to music cinematically. I think about music and how it would make me feel when it’s put to an image, a moving image, and I love it — Walton Goggins

In the last three or four weeks, I’ve been obsessed with a musical mash-up between Blondie (Heart of Glass) and Philip Glass (Violin Concerto: II) which was created by Daft Beatles a few years ago. Titled Heart of Glass (Crabtree remix), I never knew this was a mash-up I needed in my life and on my writing playlist.

The first time I heard the song was on the July 11 broadcast of CBC’s q with guest host Ali Hassan. Hassan was interviewing Michael Perlmutter, the music supervisor for the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. They were discussing the rise of the music supervisor and how the Emmys finally created a category for outstanding music supervision.

Side note: Perlmutter didn’t make the cut for that category. Bummer.

Second side note: the job of music supervisor or music editor for a film or TV series fascinates me to no end. Soundscapes are just as important as the visuals and when you have a perfect marriage between the two, it is absolutely unforgettable.

The TV series Person of Interest was the first show I became aware of the music they used in their episodes. They used music by artists such as Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, The Kills and Philip Glass for two or three key scenes in every episode during the five seasons that they ran. It was smart use of sound and visuals to manipulate the viewer into feeling a certain way about a situation or one of the characters. Although the show probably paid a pretty sum to use the music of these artists, the real star, musically-speaking, was music composer Ramin Djawadi who created the score for the series. This is where I discovered his music and have remained an ardent fan of his work. The leitmotifs he created for the series were sublime. Mind you, his work for Game of Thrones is nothing to sneeze at either. Light of the Seven will always be one of my favourite works from Djawadi.

Watching this series made me think about the marriage between sound and imagery. It also made me want to talk to the show’s music supervisor, Djawadi and the show’s producers about their views on music and its role in visual storytelling. I just wanted to pick their brains. It would have been an eye-opening experience.

Anyway, back to Perlmutter and his CBC q interview. Assuming I heard the man correctly, the show submitted its third episode for Emmy consideration which featured the Daft Beatles mash-up. Then they played the song without naming it. Well, I nearly fell over when I heard the piece. I love Blondie. I love Debbie Harry. And I have an ever-growing appreciation for Philip Glass. Holy crap. Who knew these two artists could be mashed up like that and sound so sublime. I didn’t. And had I been PVRing The Handmaid’s Tale I would have discovered this little bit of aural heaven a lot sooner.

Of course, it’s a piece of music that fits perfectly with my current writing playlist. The piece is visually and emotionally evocative. It inspires my characters. It sets the right tone for them in some of the scenes I plan to write. It sets the wheels in motion.

My playlist is forever evolving and being fine-tuned as I work on the second novel. What the playlist looked like at the beginning of the writing process will look almost completely different by the time the first draft of the book is finished. What will remain are the core pieces that represent the characters and their relationships to each other.

Music and the writing process are inextricably linked.

I’m not sure when I started listening to music cinematically. I probably started when I was a teenager. Bits and pieces of images that would pop into my head because the music I was listening to at the time demanded it. I’ve always believed in the power of combining music and imagery, be it still or moving. But not everything I hear is cinematic. The pieces of music my brain registers as cinematic share some sort of intangible quality. I know what some of the commonalities are but it doesn’t completely explain the reason they affect me the way they do.

To be honest, I’m not all that interested in over-analyzing it. I go by gut instinct when it comes to music.

And now, I’m off to obsess over music and story.