I have heard, with no certainty, that the difference between classical acting and method acting is either acting inwardly or outwardly. Method acting involves entering the mind of the character being played. Classical, on the other hand, takes something attributed to the character and then learning how that character interacts with it. This could be a hat, or a cane, or a trinket, and from that the character is extracted.
Keep in mind, this could be all completely wrong. But it makes sense to me.
Maybe this comes from what I've seen in film and stage plays. Hamlet holding a skull, contemplating death. Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass, snooping around. The T-800 wearing black leather and a pair of menacing sunglasses at all hours of the night. All this makes sense to me, especially when writing a character that is outgoing, socially adept, or professional. These kinds of characters smoke cigarettes, drink whiskey, dance on poles (light, stripper, or otherwise), wear white gloves or black hats, and hold on to things while they walk. Visually, these brief descriptions invoke certain archetypes in literature and film. You can imagine the symbol of a cowboy being made up of the sum of his/her parts: wearing a white/brown/black hat, smoking Marlboro, and drinking coarsely ground coffee that's been watered down to make it last longer. But even the associations between cowboy and cigarette conjure, in my mind at least, a rogue desperado walking up a steep incline toward a crest that overlooks a parched desert valley.
Internal characters, developed vis a vis a method actor perspective, are much harder to write. In my case, characters written in first person-limited essentially demand that I get inside their heads, which is challenging. It's so easy to influence the decisions made by the characters first of all. The author is biased in different and fundamental ways. If the character is a drug addict, the authenticity lent by the author is, at best, representative and not autobiographical. (That is, unless, the author is Hunter S. Thompson.) To get inside the head of a drug addict requires extensive research and interviews with those involved in that kind of lifestyle. The creative act therefore is not solely rooted in literary devices and diction, but in how pieces of evidence are knit together into a cohesive collage that, over time, becomes a homunculus made of pixels or bleached wood pulp (depending on the preferred medium of the reader). So, in essence, the method-actor-author is like a serial killer, flaying his/her victims and stitching together the pieces into ghoulish abominations. (I'm pretty sure that's what happens in True Crime novels at least.)
At this point... I'm stuck somewhere in between the two, which is amusing because of how black-and-white I often think about things. My characters typically drink whiskey, or throw rocks across ponds, or shave in the mirror, but I also read Godel Escher Bach and I am a Strange Loop to better understand the mathematical philosophy behind artificial intelligence and how that can be used to theorize how neurons relay information through our brains. I guess there is merit for each perspective.
As Alyssa works through draft two of my second novel, it's good to consider these things so that I have some better angles on the third and final draft.
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Saturday, April 13, 2019
I had a thought while driving back to the office today after lunch. (My wife and I share one car, so we trade on our lunches.) Philosophers were people, just like you and I. Why are they such a fucking big deal?
“20% of what Philosophers say is true, the other 80% is bullshit,” is what my friend Desmond says, and it’s not a bad maxim to live by, considering the branding that certain philosophers (or authors) exude over the course of their tenure—Grant Morrison is convinced that he was abducted by aliens from the 4th dimension in Kathmandu, an experience which has begotten the best cosmology and world building to date within the DC Universe.
And this really isn’t about philosophers specifically. It’s more of a credibility kind of thing. The words we speak, how they impact people, whether they endure beyond our close circle of friends or disseminate into the ether of pop-culture and beyond. I imagine that, throughout life, the layman and learned alike are told that philosophers and other influencers of culture are these larger than life figures. I’m often guilty of this. See below:
I admit I was angry at first. I mean take the fucking compliment, guy. But on further reflection, this appears to be the case, regardless of the critical distance that is maintained to allow some appreciation of accomplishment. Behind the storyboards, folios, and canvases are just normal, flesh-and-blood people. We know those we love (artistically) aren’t gods because Jack Kirby and Ronnie James Dio are dead. (Though their influences are legion in their respective industries.)
Many work to make a living. Very few get to make art, without feeling like they are “working.” Dante for example was one of the few authors in human history to experience the joy and legacy of his work within his own lifetime. For everyone else that enjoys, possible, posthumous fame, I think this is the case because of nostalgia.
Consider, for a moment, that in Hellenist Greece ideas were weighed with greater contemporary influence than they are in the modern era. There were forums back then specifically for debate and intellectual pursuits, because it was what their culture valued. Today (the "modern" world, which could span from the Renaissance to now) this isn’t the case, and philosophy has been relegated to a niche occupied by idealists, shutins, and professors. Philosophy is valued because of the nostalgia for the era in which those ideas were conceived. This can be the only explanation for why many philosophers never enjoyed their due in life.
After all, death amplifies of appreciation. The sense of loss and catharsis brought on by death naturally magnifies the value of someone’s life work as we, the bereaved, try to come to terms with what has happened. So the issue of critical distance makes sense in this case. We can’t, personally speaking, appreciate what we are offering because of the limit imposed by our own vantage point. When we try to do this, the only foreseeable outcome is looking like a giant piece of shit (a la Kanye West).
So, at least for now, fame shouldn’t get to our heads. Not until there are worms in them, at least.>
Enraged, curious, stimulated by what you just read?! Comment below! Let's talk about it!
Sunday, April 7, 2019
I used to write these little, 100 word stories (or at least what was small enough to fit in a twitter post).
I miss doing that.
So I decided to do it! (Again.)
One of my lifelong dreams is to write comics, someday. And while every Joe Schmo says, "Hey, I can do it!" I can't even begin to imagine the labor involved, having to come up with a story every month, and communicate full time with the art team to make it happen. And, on top of all that, continuing the story in perpetuity... These aren't quite that, but I'd like to say they are seeds for the stories that I wish were told in comics.
|Here we go!|
The lightning he had was now gone. A dark, damp road lay ahead, the switchback driveway to Fawcett University that he drove every day to school from the radio station. Running ads for supervillains and their daytime talk shows. On his television, game show sets plastered with luminous chrome confetti ran re-runs. Joker’s Last Laugh will leave you screaming for more!
In his rear-view mirror, Billy saw the Captain in the back seat, smiling confidently, immaculate white teeth reflecting the orange glow of the Sivana Model Z dashboard.
“Just say it Billy, one word. And everything will be fine again.”
Three weeks of chemo and six doctor visits later, the news broke. And the man, allegedly made of steel, buckled under the weight of the poor prognosis. It was, as he feared, the reality of life and how fragile we are. Wisps of smoke from an extinguished match.
She lay there with translucent skin, jaundiced, weakly typing a column.
I could have seen it early, he thought. But that’s not true. J’onn was clear on that.
What do you give to the man who has everything, when he has nothing left?
But a cure was possible. He could still hope.
How does it start, Wally?”
“There’s a thought in my head, racing faster than I can control it, until it’s all I’m thinking about. I don’t like to even talk about it because I’m afraid it will trigger an episode, you know?
The Martian nodded, gaunt featured under the metallic silhouette. “A psychic connection protects you, Wally. Please continue…”
“Have you ever wondered if it was worth it? What we do?”
“Very much, Wally.”
Wally fidgeted, tapping fingers vibrating 330 times per second. A sharp musical whine.
“I can outrun anything… by dying? I’m afraid of dying, J’onn. Oh god…”
A good death. That, above all things, is my greatest gift. Yet, even after discovering the Anti-Life Equation, defeating my foes, vanquishing my own son, the throngs of Hunger Dogs cast before me leave me… unindustrious.
My faith is just and pure. And as my subjects embraced oblivion for my cause against New Genesis, I too gained faith. And all make pilgrimage.
A war with the Kryptonian’s rebels is petty in comparison to what lies beyond the Source Wall. I have made parley with this new paradigm and absolute power. And so, when my worship concludes, it will be mine.
Sunday, March 31, 2019
I purchased Watch_Dogs 2 this past week and I’ve been blown away by its attention to detail, which, I suppose, invokes a greater design concept inherent in “open-world sandbox” games. (I say this in quotes because, typically, the most exhilarating moments of playing these games comes when the player is constrained and limited, which seems antithetical to the core philosophy of in-game freedom.) In order for these environments to feel lived in, they require elements of immersion to trick the player into thinking that the non-playable characters are “real,” as if every character interaction is a form of Turing Test. The representative populace of San Francisco, in my opinion, seems to be the most true to life distillation, especially when taking into consideration the carefully kept balance between technology (ie. in-game rendering of the world) and iconography (ie. contents of the world). One little detail, to those who are listening, I will share regarding my next book is that the setting is the San Francisco Bay Area. And, having spent a good portion of my childhood visiting and experiencing the Bay Area first hand, Watch_Dogs 2 will be instrumental in my approach of gaining a better visual frame of reference. Because, up until this point, I’ve used Google Maps and the street view to encounter and better understand the environment. The former is, at the very least, three dimensional. That helps.
|As much as I hate to admit it... this is too fucking real.|
When I saw the early screening of Shazam! the weekend I was in town to attend my grandmother’s memorial service, I was a little disappointed of the lack of an appearance by Black Adam (played by Dwayne Johnson), who is by far one of the most interesting anti-heroes/villains in comics today. Villains, much like the environment that a story takes place in, are critical in building the world, specifically because villains are foils to both the physical appearance and ethical constitution of the hero. In the case of Billy Batson (ie. Captain Marvel/Shazam!), his personal desire to aide those systematically disenfranchised (foster children, the terminally ill, victims of child abuse, et al.) contrasts with Black Adam’s autocratic characterization, and how this influences his view on Justice and the role of the fate of the “oppressed” in society. Whereas Billy is forgiving and patient, Black Adam (born as a slave in Egypt) consolidates power via the brutal suppression of his opponents (up to, and including, summary public executions). Both arrived to the wizard Shazam from similar circumstances, but their responses are black and white. And this ultimately builds the world, its ethics, its ultimate purpose as a theater for thought experiments on Justice, Rehabilitation, Consequence, and Fairness under the definition of Natural Law.
Villains, in general, have such potential for story-telling. It’s strange to me that there have only been small attempts to develop villain centric properties. I would love to see a series on Solomon Grundy, who, despite being an undead abomination, has displayed lots of depth throughout his character history. Likewise, a Vertigo-esque character study—similar to Neil Gaiman’s run on The Sandman—for Darkseid could have momentous potential. Other than the Joker (via The Killing Joke), this hasn’t been attempted with critical acclaim (at least to my knowledge).
Simply put, the above is easy to conceive on a purely theoretical level. Actually writing it down is another thing altogether. Consider what has already been done. The formula to creating a villain is nothing new. So creating these characters is almost like building another piece of the world. The opposition requires a narrative that is equally as credible as the hero, as well as symbolize stasis. Being the catalyst for change, the hero interacts with the opposition, not the other way around. Bringing it all back to where we began, the setting of all narrative is like wallpaper, and the hero is pushing through it into the moldy drywall.
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
The other day I said goodbye to a large swath of comics on my shelf. My personal goal of building a personal library over my lifetime was hindered by a lack of space, so I meticulously truncated my library based on the likelihood of re-reading titles. Those that didn’t make the cut are pictured below:
|To be completely transparent, I recently acquired an Absolute Edition of|
World's Greatest Superheroes, Kingdom Come, and All-Star Superman.
There’s so much to love about comics, yet, at the same time, there’s a lot of chaff that doesn’t deserve to be bound in the first place. After all, comics are serials, monthly installments that get churned out with incomplete stories. Though, when I was collecting monthly issues a year or two ago, I never recalled reading a story that I outright hated. Tom King’s current run on Batman, is beyond imagination and it feels interesting to watch presently something that in 15-20 years will have the same renown as Grant Morrison’s Animal Man. That said, what I was giving away were from the era of the New 52, back when DC was lured by the siren song of Zack Snyder’s grim cinematic universe into making shitty, transgressive stories—remember the 80s, am-I-right? Selling them was difficult, but ultimately I was able to consign them to a local comic book store. (Go Avalon!)
With my wife editing my second draft on the weekends, there has been more time for me to spend with my daughter, Eowyn. To my sweet surprise, she fell in love with all the Miyazaki films (the ones for children, at least) as well as Batman: The Brave and The Bold. The other day, she picked up my bluray copy of Justice League and was able to pick out all the members of the JLA without breaking a sweat! (“Bah-mah!” for Batman, “Wuh-muh!” for Wonder Woman, “Sum-mah!” for Superman, and “Fshhhhhh!” for the Flash.) The amazing thing about children, something that I never truly realized before having one, is how young children attain this environmental awareness. Like, you can talk to a dog, anthropomorphize it, but a dog could never talk back to you. That would be fucking crazy.
Talking kids. Now that’s fucking crazy.
I find myself in these positions where I’m having an existential crisis. How do I introduce her to comics? To guitar? To Jesus? Do my introductions actually matter? Do they appear forced? I try not to think about it, as much anymore. All the things that I fell in love with, were I to go back and look for the spark that ignited such passions, I doubt they would be anything obvious. Hobbies always start with a little push. I wrote my first “story” when I was in middle school. But I was also killing it when I started writing three sentence “sandwich” paragraphs in 3rd grade. Neither of those things would have lead me down the path to writing novels. Yet, here I am. Artistic talent isn't like building model rockets. And, at the end of the day, whatever she chooses to love will make me proud.
Friday, March 15, 2019
|A bit ecumenical for my taste, but, if you are a christian, |
this is how you love others in line with the gospel.
“This is not the Gospel.” That’s my usual response to atrocity. So, especially, when I see the news this morning (Friday) that 49 have been confirmed dead in New Zealand due to a right wing “Christian” terrorist, I just sit there shaking my head, without words to express my sadness. This would be the second time in recent memory that a white supremacist in a country of traditionally non-violent people carried out a shooting, motivated by race and hatred of immigrants. (In 2011 Anders Breivik killed 77 people, mostly children, to “protect” Norway from liberalizing and compromising the ethnic makeup of the country. These children were attending a liberal sponsored summer camp at the time for those volunteering with left leaning political organizations.)
The mark my faith makes on my books usually is Tolkien-esque—making subtle allusions in the interest of telling a story with a worldview in the background, not at the fore. In my stories, drawing from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, I decided—rather arbitrarily—that in order for a character to live, one must die. That is true of Spirit of Orn and Tall Men and Other Tales. I bring this up because the sordid past of the Catholic Church and Protestant sects, have on display a wide array of atrocities, some more recent than others. And while someone may have a “membership” to a particular strain of Christendom, I often steer clear of specific denominations because they function more or less as arbitrary categories and not demarcations for actual “saving-faith” in the resurrection of Jesus.
It’s frustrating both personally and existentially to see these things happen. I find it difficult to believe that anyone could read the New Testament and draw from it the conclusions of the NZ and Norway shooters. The only thing I can imagine, the only thing that could possibly explain this, is the fundamental desire to augment the practices of 1st century Christianity to fit our current cultural climates. And, make no mistake, there is not truly “right answer.” Christian ethics professors would say that something like Just War Theory is far more “reasonable” than the Crusades of the Middle Ages, which were motivated by misinterpretations of the Revelation of St. John and the need to consolidate the papacy’s political dominance as a nation-state. (Far different, one could say, from the Eastern Orthodox Churches that remained subservient to the governments in power.) But Just War theory is a pragmatic attempt to justify killing others in war, who at the end of the day are just other pawns being moved forward by heads of state.
It’s further frustrating when other communities observe these actions made by lone gunmen and equate those actions with modern Christian Orthopraxy. But I could say the same thing about Christian expressions of republicans, Southern Baptists, and people that don’t let me drink beer at homegroup (our weekly Christian gatherings affiliated with my church). These previous examples demonstrate a linear curve of de-escalating prejudice, which is observable in any community, be it Muslim or comic book fans. So, at the end of the day, the things that define us are tempered by our own conscience and reason.
As I said before, there is no definitive answer, or absolute definition of orthopraxy. The only absolute in this world is the absolute—of course, to myself, this is Jesus. And when people raise up a tertiary cause to become what, in their minds, is absolute, the only resulting path is destruction. Jesus’ actions, the reality of who he was, and is, culminate in the gospel that I believe. The same gospel that prohibits prejudice, slander, and xenophobia. That is why I am not without hope, because what happened in NZ isn’t the gospel.
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Earlier this month, my grandmother died at the age of 92 years old. And, while I wanted to say something at her upcoming memorial, I decided, rather, to say it here. Because, after all, this is where I am most comfortable. Sitting at a card table, next to my books, drinking a beer in the darkness, waiting for sleep to finally lure me to bed.
I don’t think anyone is perfect. Usually the way we memorialize the dead, there’s a concerted effort to sanitize the subject’s life, in an effort to bring comfort and closure to those left behind. Though, I can’t help but think that disingenuous, like Thomas Jefferson cutting out the contents of his personal bible that offended his sensibilities. Life is complex, dirty, and beautiful. End of story.
My grandmother was always referred to as “Grandy.” I never knew why. It was never explained to me, and I never asked. It wasn’t until I was older (ten years old) that I learned her name was Matilde, or Matil. This is rather poetic, given that she never knew what I looked like. She suffered from Macular degeneration, which stole her sight from her over the course of her life. By the time we (my brother and I) were born, she had complete vision loss. Yet this never stopped her from challenging the norms of those suffering from blindness. She took many vacations and cruises to parts of the world that I could only dream of. She participated in sightseeing tours, experiencing (I imagine) the world through its smell and touch. I remember that she once asked me why God took her sight from her, when I was proselytizing in my earlier years after becoming a Christian. (Catholic and Protestant dynamic, and all that.) I can’t remember what my response was. But the way she asked it, I was certain she harbored some anger, or at least some dismay regarding her current situation. Her coping for this was bravely defeating it's stigma.
Her mastery over the world was always apparent. Both financially and socially, she dominated her world. For most of her life she was a shrewd investor, holding real estate and stock market assets, which allowed her to be independently wealthy for the duration of her life. One situation, if it wasn’t so traumatic, I find to this day bleakly amusing. There was this time when my parents were in the throes of getting a divorce. Argument was common in the remote farmhouse that I grew up in, the surrounding trees numbing the dissonance inside. It was when Grandy discovered that my mom and my dad were getting a divorce that she asked to have the Hoover vacuum cleaner returned to her, which she gave my mom as a wedding gift, as if recouping a financial loss. And though my dad, the always obedient first born son, went along with it, I know today that watching my parents scream at each other in the hallway was caused by the fiscal soundness of my grandmother’s design. For better or worse.
My grandma’s legacy will carry with me for the rest of my life. The stories I’ve heard, about her adventures, about the fights she had with her children, as well as my memories of going out to dinner at Coco’s Restaurant after mass and the time she insisted that all of her grandchildren order prime rib (at Coco’s) on her birthday, have shaped me. She would always insist, perhaps beg, that we remember her, for what she did for us. She made a special pact with her grandchildren (for instance) so that, if we didn’t drink/smoke/have coffee/do drugs, she would give us the kingly sum of $1,000. (A lot of money for a 9 year old kid, mind you.) I was the only grandchild that completed the Faustian bargain. (Receiving an unexpected additional $1,100. $2,100 for my 21st birthday... Get it?) I say “Faustian” because of the anguish I had to endure in order to complete that arrangement, and the consequential estrangement from my peers in the process throughout my late high school and college years.
Ultimately, I used the money to fund the construction of a custom electric guitar that I play and enjoy to this day.
The last time I saw Grandy was during Christmas this past year. We knew her heath was failing, but she still doggedly pursued social engagements. She was able to meet her first great-granddaughter, Eowyn. (The previous year, also.) Watching her hold my daughter was… bewildering. Her stern quality melted away. She was a warm mother, a side of her I never saw before until then. That seemed to be her legacy. She was a product of her time, but a transgressor, enough so to challenge the cards dealt to her. She triumphed financially and was generous in her old age to lend a helping hand to all her grandchildren, including my wife and I. I never told her that the $4000 she gave us as a wedding present, meant to pay our rent for four months, was instrumental in funding a trip to Norway, to help conclude research for my book, Spirit of Orn. And I wish I did.
Because she accepted the resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins, I will indeed see her again, someday. But when I do, she will see me for the first time.