Something greater than yourself

You’re in service of something stronger than you. Like the story has to be stronger than you. And your certainty has to be stronger than anybody else’s because the story speaks to you. Not because it’s you. (It’s) because you say “Look this is what it needs, not me.” And you actually feel carried on. You go through the difficulties but you feel carried on in terms of faith and certainty — Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer and novelist Guillermo del Toro speaking at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival

As a writer, you are in service of something bigger than just simply your existence. You are a storyteller whether the tales you tell are true-life or fictionalized.

It has taken me a lifetime to definitively conclude that I am a storyteller. Whether through images or words or a combination of both, I am a storyteller. That is something I am most proud of and is the most comfortable skin I’ve ever worn.

There will always be people who expect me to wear a different skin because of the way I look and the stereotypes/biases that come with it. I have to humour them. Or least humour them long enough to figure out what it is they really want from me and make the conscious and pointed decision to disappoint them.

My current writing project has pushed me onto another level of storytelling. It’s something I’ve always planned to do… push myself with each writing project. The field research is a part of this process. This story is so different from the first book. And I anticipate getting interesting reactions about it once it’s done.

I’m a ‘like it’, ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ kind of person. You can’t get more basic that that. I’m not crazy about over-analyzing things. Navel-gazing isn’t all that much fun in my opinion. I’ll leave that to the folks who like doing that kind of thing. Reminds me of dealing with a backseat driver. I’d rather kick them out of the car and let them fend for themselves rather than listen to them tell me what my thought process is. Adiós, amigos.

Those who really know me, respect me, love me and are weirdly entertained by me. And not necessarily in that order. Being weirdly entertaining wins out most of the time.

Four days into my field research, I have met people, with interesting stories, who are genuinely interested in me and the silly things I get myself into. If I sound surprised, it’s because I am. The idea of me actually being interesting to another human being is a bit baffling at times.

As a result, I’ll be walking away, at the conclusion of my field research, with a few more friends to populate my life.

The field research has been going great. A lot of information to process and absorb. I’ve been taking notes. Not everything I’ve been exposed to will end up in my current writing project. But there is always the chance some of that information will appear in future stories. I don’t know if I’ll absorb enough stuff to have a truly nerdy did-you-know moment á la Cliff Clavin from Cheers.

Anyway, there is more stuff to do this week. I brought books with me to read and I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. Ack. I really should set aside some time to unwind and read. There might be time near the end of the trip. But maybe I should start now. Hmmm.

For now, there is more stuff to process, to absorb and to be greater than the sum of its parts.

So taken with the melancholy

Music is a great catalyst for emotion because it gets to your core — Chris Milk

Last week, I discovered a piece of music I would dare to describe as the definitive theme, the musical blueprint that speaks to the relationship between my two main characters, my boys. The lyrics don’t speak entirely to the true nature of the relationship between my boys. It is the emotions the music evokes that simmers between them.

It happened by accident, to be honest. I follow a website called Nowness on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a great little site. So, I spotted one of their postings and because of the blurb and the image, I had to click and watch. What I clicked onto and watched was a dance video (if you want to label it as such) called The Idea of Us, directed by Geej Ower.

What adjectives can I use to describe this film (because it’s more than just a video)… heartbreaking, melancholic, breathtaking, tender, brilliantly simple in terms of its visual language and the body language belonging to the two characters, and just drop-dead beautiful. Yes, I’m a little obsessed with it, at the moment. I’ve never experienced before, a music/dance video, that basically put me under its spell the way this one has.

After seeing the vid, I was wondering what the fuck happened. The visual storytelling was clear. No ‘ifs, ands or buts’ about what it was about. That definitely didn’t confuse me. But I was left in the wake of the emotions, the intentions, the struggles of the lead character. They stayed with me. And that was pretty powerful.

You may watch the video and wonder what the fuck I’m talking about. I’m fine with you not understanding why this visual and musical manifestation of pain, loss and the struggle to move on is a masterpiece in my eyes and my heart. I’m also fine with you not reading this post anymore for whatever reason pops into your head. Later, dude. Make sure the door doesn’t hit you in the ass on the way out.

Movement, music and visual language are my holy trinity. Get the mix just right and it is beyond sublime. Ower’s video/film does that for me. I could spend days looking at that video, examining the details. Every. Fucking. Detail. I would go at it scene by scene, frame by frame. I’m such a geek.

You’d think I was looking for secrets. Secrets to what? I haven’t a clue and I don’t know what you’re talking about. But, if you insist, I’m looking for revelations and affirmations about my own artistic sensibilities — defining or redefining it by dissecting the sensibilities of others. Who are the kindred spirits? Who inspires me without even trying? If I met them at a bar, would we end up sharing a bottle of whisky or mezcal? I’m always up for new drinking buddies, especially when they make you think, in a good way.

I want to talk about the music as much as the visuals and the movement. Sometimes it’s so hard to separate them and talk about them in isolation from one another. It’s possible but it would be so wrong. So, I’ll start off with the music and weave everything else into it.

The song is This Idea of Us by UK singer-songwriter Jono McCleery. I don’t know what to say other than the combination of acoustic guitar teamed up with a string quartet and McCleery’s vocals has given me nothing but all kinds of intense feels. The kind that gently takes you by the hand and takes you on a slow burn journey that leaves you stunned and breathless at the end.

As an side, I have to say this: As much as I love the piano, I’ve become a sucker for string instruments. Their sound brings texture, complexity and nuance to a piece of music and to the sound of other instruments. I never thought to pair a string quartet with a guitar but it was done. McCleery’s friend, Matt Kelly, wrote the string quartet part for the song. He refers to Kelly as a wizard. I would have to agree. The layers of sounds he wrote for the strings, blend so seductively with McCleery’s voice. It really is sublime. Yeah, it’s definitely one way to seduce me. How do I know Kelly wrote the music for the strings? McCleery told me when we were chatting via Twitter. How did that happen? Well, I tweeted about being obsessed with This Idea of Us and we ended up having a small discourse.

So, back to that slow burn journey. That journey is manifested in the two characters in the film. Without a doubt, the two characters are portrayed by dancers because of the quality of their movement. While it’s not quite dance, the interaction and struggle is expressed in contemporary dance movements. The choice of particular movements enhance and magnify the music, the story and the characters’ motivations. And vice versa.

The visual choices the director makes, brings out the bittersweet melancholy of the song. Overcast skies with no hint of sun. Ambient light pouring into a home where its four walls, if it could talk, would tell you stories of a love that once lived there. The light is not harsh, cruel or dim. You’re just stuck in the grey. Nothing bright and colourful except for the rich blue sweater the lead character wears in most of his scenes. The memories of the past clashing with the need to move forward bleeds in the softness of shadow and light.

I don’t even know if what I feel when I listen to the song has been appropriately conveyed. Sometimes words are not enough or they can’t do justice to the intangibles. I think my words fall somewhere in between.

And I’m going back to play the crap out of that song again because it’s not done with me yet. It probably won’t ever be done with me. So enthralled. So taken. So under its spell.

Earworms and tall, cold drinks

Earworm — a song that sticks in your mind and will not leave no matter how much you try.

Last week, I spoiled myself and went to the movie theatre twice. I watched American Assassin and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Loved both of them. I must have a thing for spy/action movies. Rom-coms can take a hike. The only one I might sit through is Love, Actually.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Michael Keaton so it was great to see him again on the big screen. I have to say the man ages well. I have no problem looking at him.

But I was impressed by Dylan O’Brien as the lead protagonist. I haven’t seen him in anything before this which is probably good because the stuff he’s been in isn’t what I would normally watch. There wouldn’t have been anything that would have put him on my radar before American Assassin. Wrong demographic. Next time, I’d like to see him sink his teeth into a dramatic role and surprise me.

Now that I’ve watched the film, I have plans to read the book the film was adapted from. It’s sitting on the kitchen counter right now. Waiting for me. Yeah, it along with a whole bunch of other books vying for my attention. My curiosity about the characters piqued my interest in the book and I want to know more of their backstory and their character development that two-hour film doesn’t show the viewer.

And of course, I was listening to the film score. And yes, I will be downloading the score in the near future.

With Kingsman: The Golden Circle, I was just looking to be entertained after a long work day. And entertained I was. Right from the get-go. Chase scenes and fight scenes were superb as usual.

What makes those scenes, aside from the choreography, is the music. It’s a bit of an assault on the senses, specifically, sight and hearing. You see this awesome scene in front of you and your ears pick up on the music and it turns into one big badass party.

The final fight scene was epic. Not just because of who were going toe-to-toe (who knew I would a long cold drink after that one. I certainly didn’t… ah, my newest fantasy trio), but also because of the music used for that scene.

Who remembers Word Up by Cameo? Yes, that was the song for the epic fight scene. But it wasn’t performed by Cameo. It was performed by The BossHoss, a Berlin band who started out in 2004 turning hit pop, rock and hip-hop songs into country & western ditties. Didn’t recognize it until they started singing the lyrics. Holy fucking crap! Up until then, I didn’t know how badly I needed this version in my life. I couldn’t help but dance in my seat. Picking that song for that scene — pure genius.

I believe all the music selected for the film falls on its director Matthew Vaughan. I’d like to pick his brain. Word Up turned into an earworm for me. But it wasn’t the only song to catch my ear.

Inexplicably, John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads and Annie’s Song have been bouncing around in my head. Damn that man for using them in the film. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a John Denver song used in a movie. Logan Lucky uses it. However, it wasn’t as jarring to hear it in that film as it was to hear it in Kingsman.

But you gotta love the contrast of all things American and British. It couldn’t be more apparent in the music selection. Speaking of which, Elton John is absolutely hilarious in the movie. Fucking. Hilarious. That’s all I can say.

And since I enjoyed that movie so damned much, I’m going to watch it again. Reinforce those earworms, why don’t I. Well, that and the eye candy. Subjecting myself to the eye candy is a good thing… as long as I have a tall, cold drink in hand.