Tugging at my bindings

When I get an idea for a book, something appeals to me, it’s usually a character. I’ll see a picture of a female marshal in front of the courthouse in Miami and she’s got a shotgun on her hip and it goes up on an angle. And she’s good-looking. And I say, ‘I’ve got to use her’ — Elmore Leonard

When it comes to starting a new writing project, it always revolves around, not one, but two characters born out of an interesting idea. That is how it was with my first book. That is how it is with the modest pile of story ideas currently sitting in my figurative keepsake box, waiting for me to revisit them or explore them beyond the one sentence description.

And clearly, that is how it is with my current writing project. Two characters who barreled their way into my imagination, disrupting the development of another story idea, forcing me to temporarily set aside that story idea for these two bundles of energy who have made it their mission to never allow me to ignore them for any extended period of time.

Apparently, they’re done being quiet and allowing me to go about my business during this extended time period that I am in. My two boys don’t come up to me and tell me point blank that they need playtime with me. This time, they sneak up on me ninja-style, which is pretty hilarious given how loud and energetic they are. Even when they’re quiet, the air ripples around them.

To be honest, it’s my own bloody fault. I’m starting to tug at the bindings that have me bound to the commitments I have outside from my boys. Then I started thinking about a particular plot point that popped into my head as I was driving yesterday afternoon. I’m seriously considering adding this plot point to my boys’ story. It would also expand a third character’s role in the story and would make the dynamic more than interesting between the three characters. This has the potential to play out in new, exciting and thrilling ways for everyone involved.

Of course, as soon as this plot point popped up, one of the boys fired off a grenade launcher and the other ran around banging two trash can lids together, both yelling “Hell ya!!!!!!” Yes, I know that’s a lot of exclamation marks. That’s how bloody excited they are.

They’re incorrigible.

That means the new plot point goes in. When your characters whole-heartedly want (it’s actually more like, demand) you to add this twist into the story, you can’t say ‘no.’ I do like the twist. It might offend some people’s sensibilities but I really couldn’t give a fuck about that, right now.

As for the reaction of the third character whose role has become much more intriguing (and possibly a little more frightening), she’s pretty pleased. She doesn’t jump around like those two hotheads. She’s ready to sink her teeth into what I’ve come up with for her.

I’m happy to be developing her beyond being a prop. I’ve always wanted her to be more than that and it has niggled at me since she came to life. I’ve always believed she was meant to do more, be more than whatever archetypal conventions could cast upon her. I needed her to deviate, even if it’s just a little. And this twist is what she has been waiting for. The glint in her eyes when she realizes I have more in store for her, tells me this is the right thing to do.

Now when I think of her, Fleetwood Mac’s Gold Dust Woman comes to mind. But the version of the song that plays in my head is performed by Halestorm. It’s a great cover, by the way.

After my non-writing commitments have been met, it’s back to my characters. I’m still tugging at my bindings. But I know my boys will cut me loose.

Probably sooner than I expect.

Can’t make this sh*t up, folks

I’m sure everyone has heard the sayings ‘you can’t make up shit like this’, ‘fact is stranger than fiction’ or some other phrase that shares the same sentiment.

Well, this week I am presenting a ‘you can’t make up shit like this’ story for your entertainment.

It started out innocently enough. Flew out to Toronto last Friday to catch the Game of Thrones live concert experience, featuring the show’s music composer, Ramin Djawadi. The show was held Saturday at Air Canada Centre. Great show, by the way. I went to see the concert because first and foremost, I love Djawadi’s compositions. The Game of Thrones angle? An afterthought, for me. Should he ever decide to do this again, perhaps after the series ends, I will see him again. Maybe by then, I’ll have watched the entire series. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on that.

I’ve admitted before that I have not seen one episode of Game of Thrones. It still holds true. I still haven’t gotten around to seeing the series. There are too many quality TV programs and great films to watch. There’s too much reading I need to do. Then, there’s life that keeps moving along whether or not you want it to. It’s a heck of a juggling act.

The show weaved the music with some of the show’s most talked-about scenes and spotlighted some of their most compelling and enigmatic characters. I gotta say I’m definitely intrigued by the show. My soft spot for dragons has been strengthened and I may have developed a bit of bloodlust while experiencing the show. There were some powerful moments during the concert — potent enough for me to get a little teary-eyed at least three times. That is the power of marrying images and music together.

The audience — maybe 99.9% were hardcore fans — was into the whole experience. Cheers, screams, unsolicited advice for the poor bastard who dies in the next clip, could be heard quite heartily throughout the arena. It was pretty funny. Even the dude selling popcorn got into it before the show started. He spoke as if he were from the fictional world of Westeros. Gotta use what’s at your disposal to sell popcorn, right?

I snagged a couple of t-shirts at one of the merchandise tables. Fingers crossed that they don’t shrink after being washed. But I’m pretty careful with my clothes so I think they’ll be okay.

So, the evening was a visual feast and I left feeling good about the whole live concert experience. Up to that point, nothing about the evening was ever in contention to own the phrase ‘you can’t make up shit like this.’

So, let me tell you my first ever ‘you can’t make up shit like this’ story. I’m kind of channelling Ben Mendelsohn because that man has a great delivery and has the best burst-out-laugh ever.

It started with me arriving back to the hotel (which shall remain unnamed) after the concert. It was after 11 pm on a Saturday night. I had skipped a full dinner because I was having tummy troubles. I did manage to eat a protein bar before the concert started.

Of course, by the time I got back in the hotel room, I decided I needed something to eat. Hey, there’s a Tim Horton’s not far from the hotel. So, I wandered back out, grabbed a chicken salad croissant sandwich and headed back to the hotel. The lobby was full of guests just arriving from God-knows-where. Mainly families with small children. Most of them had made their way up to their appointed rooms and the last family just took the last elevator by the time I got back into the lobby.

So, I waited for the next elevator which arrived about 10 seconds later. To be honest, I like having the elevator to myself. More room in an enclosed space. The next time the elevator doors slid open was at the second floor. I wasn’t paying attention and almost bumped into a guy entering the elevator. Didn’t bump into him because I realized it wasn’t my floor. Stopped myself just in time and backed up a couple of steps. We acknowledged each other. He was shirtless. Okay, I thought, he just came from the fitness centre. Peripherally, I noticed he was barefoot. Seen that before. The carpets were pretty clean so his feet probably weren’t all that dirty. Short trip from the second floor to whatever floor his room was located.

He walked into the elevator and I realized the guy was naked as a newborn baby. Seeing a bare-naked ass less than three feet away from you in an elevator is one of those things you don’t count on finding. Well, I found it. The guy had a towel draped over his forearm which concealed the family jewels. I had assumed he was wearing shorts. Silly me. The dude had a nice ass, though. I’ll admit it. He had a shaved head, trimmed facial hair, no discernible tattoos that I were visible to me. He was fit.

I’m impressed that he was pretty casual about his nakedness. Good thing he didn’t take the elevator with the family in it. That would have been awkward. I opted to not gawk at him because that would be plain rude. Kept my eyes on the elevator doors, looked at the croissant sandwich I was holding with my left hand and kept my right hand in my coat pocket.

Keeping it casual after 11 pm on a Saturday night in an elevator.

His floor was above mine if you were wondering which floor he was staying on. Or… maybe he was visiting someone on the floor above and his room is actually on the second floor. So many ways this could go. The imagination will run rampant if you let it.

I’m positive there wasn’t a sauna listed as a hotel feature for guests. There is a fitness centre and a boardroom located on the second floor. I’m just a little baffled as to why he would be going about his business in his birthday suit.

Was I offended by his casual nakedness? Nope. My mother would have been if she was there. Not me. I’m just surprised that I get to tell a story like this because it actually happened to me. This is hilarious. You hear strange stories from friends and acquaintances, and depending how strange the story is, you either wished it had happened to you or wished it would never ever happen to you.

I’m thinking I’m the only one out of my friends who has shared an elevator with a naked man. And I am now part of the ‘strange, but true’ club. If I ever need to break the ice at a party, I’ll just pull this ditty out of my pocket and share.

Call me strange but I consider sharing an elevator with a naked man one of life’s interesting highlights.

Moonlight’s win is no joke

This is not a joke, Moonlight has won best picture. Moonlight. Best picture — Jordan Horowitz, producer, La La Land

Usually I don’t pay much attention to the Oscars. Primarily because I haven’t gotten around to seeing any of the nominees before the big night. I might see one of the movies after the statues have been handed out. ‘Might’ being the operative word.

The only time I was interested or invested in what happened at the Oscars was when Brokeback Mountain was up for best picture. I loved that movie. Still do. Naturally, I thought it was an absolute travesty when Crash robbed Brokeback Mountain of that particular Oscar. I remember being quite pissed about that outcome. Calling that win an upset is a mild way of describing it.

Since then, I hadn’t really given two cents to the pomp and pageantry of the Oscars.

That was until I watched Moonlight. Everything about it is perfection to me. It took hold of my heart like nothing else before it and it is a story I champion.

I will admit to not having watched La La Land. Will I ever? Most likely not. I’m not a fan of musicals. I have a hard time connecting to that film genre. Not my jam. But I’m not saying I don’t respect the time and effort put into making that film. Kudos to the film for the six Oscars they earned last night.

Going into last night, right or wrong, the two films were pitted against each other. The nature of competition, I guess. The Oscars, by its very nature, is a tedious awards show to watch, regardless of who is hosting. I’m not sure if it speaks to the shortening of viewers’ attention span, but it seems trying for the average person to sit for more than three hours watching a televised awards show when all they want to hear is who wins the last category of the night.

As expected, there weren’t any real surprises or upsets during the ceremony. It was getting a little boring although some of the speeches were beautiful, like the one Viola Davis gave after winning Best Supporting Actress. I’m all for ‘exhuming bodies’ and listening to those stories. Those are the ones I want to hear.

Another moment of note was actor Gael García Bernal speaking out against Trump’s plan to build a wall along the very long U.S.– Mexico border: “As a Mexican, as a Latin American, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I am against any form of wall that wants to separate us.”

I suppose the only hint that something might not go La La Land‘s way was the fact they did not come close to sweeping in all their nominated categories. Out of the 14 nominations, they took the Oscar in the only six categories.

Quite frankly, I was itching for an upset of epic proportions as the evening wore on. Something along the lines of what had happened to Brokeback Mountain, but bigger. I had always wanted Moonlight to win Best Picture but came to resign myself to the likelihood of La La Land taking that honour.

Then that gaffe happened. Everyone would have preferred that the correct envelope had been given to Warren Beatty and that the folks from Moonlight would have been given the opportunity to enjoy their win more completely. As the saying goes, shit happens. Then you roll with it.

Huge kudos to La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz for announcing there had been a mistake and graciously handing the Oscar statue over to Moonlight director Barry Jenkins and vacating the stage for the Moonlight folks. In any other situation where millions of people aren’t watching you because you’re on live TV, handling the situation with aplomb would have been a lot easier. But when everybody is looking at you and that self-conscious feeling is creeping up on you, you do what you know is right and hope the passing of the statue goes smoothly. Horowitz couldn’t have done it better in a painfully awkward situation.

These two films should have never ended up in this situation. It really was unfair to both parties.

Take away the biggest (and most embarrassing) gaffe in Oscar history and what you have is the epic upset I was looking for.

In it’s most simplified explanation, this film is a love story between two black men. It is a coming-of-age film. The film’s characters are representations of people who exist in the real world but have never really had the chance to exist and flourish beyond art house-style cinema.

This is a film that cost $1.5 million to make and was filmed in under a month. It has shown it is possible for independent filmmakers to go toe-to-toe with the big boys at the Oscars. It shows that stories like the one Jenkins tells in Moonlight are worth telling and should be told. People want to hear these stories. These stories are universal. To be denied the opportunity to tell them is criminal.

Some will excuse Moonlight’s win as the result of the current political climate. That may be partly true but it doesn’t diminish the fact that the film resonated with a lot of people before the U.S. presidential election back in November.

You cannot diminish this win. You cannot diminish the fact the film exists. You cannot diminish the fact this movie is very important to a lot people who have been marginalized in film, mainstream media and society.

The fact Moonlight was honoured last night with Best Picture brings hope that cinematically, we will see more of these kinds of stories, a more rounded and complex take of the world we live in.