Mustaches A-Twirl

I’m taking a crack at a villain right now, and so have been trying to get into a villainous, mustache-twirling frame of mind. This has been a bit difficult, not the least because I haven’t a mustache to twirl.

I recently picked up a project I had been working on last year. In the throes of furiously hashing out a story, I hadn’t noticed – or allowed myself to glaze over and patch up – the bits that didn’t feel right. Now that I’ve come back to it after a few months, I’ve realized that one character, who was certainly responsible for a lot bad things, but I had never really seen as THE antagonist, was most definitely THE baddie of the story. And then I realized I didn’t really know the character at all.

So I’ve spent the last few days considering the greats in the field of villainy. Not surprisingly, a lot of my favorites come from the world of geekery, and the rest come from the domain of nerdism. Honestly, a lot come from comic books, and those that don’t come from the English canon. And yes, I am that uppity. Chaucer is my homeboy (especially when he looks like Paul Bettany). And if I try to narrow it down, my absolute top three – The Joker, Loki, and Lucifer – could be argued into both categories. At the very least, they are all characters of mythological proportions, and they’ve all appeared in comics.

The Joker, is the least surprising, and the hardest to cram into that whole Western canon dealio (though I bet I could convince you of it, given a loose enough definition of “canon”). And Batman is definitely an American myth at this point, don’t argue with me on this, just nod and accept it, because otherwise I will lawyer the shit out of you to make you accept it. Everyone loves the Nolan/Ledger Joker, but he’s always been a villain with style. Nolan’s Joker just really brought out the whole “motiveless malignity” thing, like Iago in Othello (see that, canon, BAM, LAWYERED!). Usually Loki falls into a similar category, but my favorite was in the Marvel movie, as played by Tom Hiddleston. He’s so clearly the bad guy of that story, but I felt so bad for him sometimes. Having to look into Hiddleston’s wide, sad blue eyes probably helped with this a lot. Really, the motiveless malignity thing doesn’t really work for my purposes, obviously since it took me a few months to realize just how bad my baddie was. So that version of Loki moves closer to what I’m going for. I think the ultimate in this concept of the villain who’s been wronged is Lucifer, especially in Milton, or, in a rare move on my part, I decide to be less pretentious, but no less geeky, any of Neil Gaiman’s incarnations. Neil Gaiman has two particularly good depictions of Lucifer turning to a baddie, in a short story and in the Sandman series.

The problem with Lucifer is that his raison d’etre is usually simply to counter God, he provides the flipside of the coin, as in all part of God’s plan, etc. And in the classic discussion of villains, they are exactly this, the opposite of the hero, the personification of the hero’s weaknesses and flaws. I have sort of a kneejerk reaction to this and just want to reject it as too simplistic, but the more I think about it, the more I can see how my baddie starts to fit into that mold, without much force at all. But still, that’s not all that makes a perfect baddie, and there a lot of aspects of this character that I need to work out, without even considering his role as the antagonist. Which I mean, really, is probably the best way for me to go about it. If worse comes to worst, I’ll just give him a fabulous mustache and call it day.

Writer, In the Cult of Done

I work in an office, so there’s pretty much an unending tsunami of paperwork. The only difference between my office and any other office in the country is that we’re dealing with SAG and teamsters, and occasionally someone famous wanders around the office wondering where when a PA is going to get them some coffee. As you can imagine, there are very few opportunities for creativity, professionally speaking, for someone in my position. On a daily basis, the most creative portion of the day may be picking what’s for lunch, and thinking of a particularly witty quip to say to your boss (ass-kissing).

Lately, I’ve been tasked with some SAG paperwork that requires me to write a short paragraph justifying why we used non-union members for certain things, like stunts for example. In these paragraphs, I write usually about 100 words, maybe 250 at absolute max. It feels like writing press for these non-union stuntees, but I’ve been complimented on my ability to write up a paragraph. My boss was so impressed that she chuckled at what I produced and pointed out that she was highly satisfied with my scribbles. Today, I wrote up a craigslist ad. Again, she complimented me in my writing skillz, especially noting my succintness (let’s not forget Strunk & White – “Be brief” – also, slightly more poetical, and therefore less brief, the Bard – “Brevity is the soul of wit”). In fact, as she pondered how much she liked my ad, she mused aloud, “You’re a writer aren’t you?”

She said it almost surprised, as if coming to a sudden realization. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned to her that writing is my endgame, so for her to say that sent my brain in immediate over-analysis mode. Assuming that she is not a complete ninny, which I think is a good assumption, my obsessive examination of her statement has led me to two conclusions – 1) It was a nice way of saying I can be … overly eloquent? Ok, tryingly obscure and wordy. Or, the much preferable 2) I really  might have a certain something when I write anything that betrays me for a writer. I want to believe this one, but it seems a little too shiny.

Also, I hardly feel like a writer these days. I have no compunction about blaming my lack of writing on my current job – working 12 hour days is draining, regardless of what you’re doing, and when you add about an hour and a half of commute time, that really leaves only a couple of hours of free time before it’s time to hit the sack and prepare for the next round. And that television certainly isn’t going to watch itself. So, I think my excuse is valid. But I still feel guilty for having an excuse at all. I have too many projects sitting in files that, were they not digital representations of packets of data rather than actual  physical folders containing files, would be gathering copious amounts of dust as they sit unfinished and untouched. I’m going to plaster the Cult of Done Manifestos all about my workspace when I finally have a chance to set it all up.

In the meantime, I’m going to hope that things like my boss accepting a craigslist ad as evidence of my writerly potential as the kick in the ass to get me back onto the path of enlightenment. Also, start learning this as a mantra.

Cueing the Music and Changing the Date

This year has started out miraculously. For one, I have managed to fill out numerous forms over the last week without once putting “11” as the year. This used to be the bane of my existence. I must be growing.

Of course with the new year comes the obligatory resolve to somehow better ourselves. I’ve got a couple specifics, but basically mine all boil down to better discipline and self-control. I mean really, whose doesn’t? But I think recognizing it as a general character flaw that simply specific goals I’m working towards makes it easier to make myself tackle. This seems a little counter-intuitive – I think people usually like to focus on the little problems that make up the big problem. But if I recognize it as a problematic flaw rather than a self-improvement project it seems more pressing.

When I first started tapping out this blog, I intended to leave is short and sweet and glaze over what’s been a large part of the last few months. But some things are maybe too important to not talk about. I’ve tried to avoid pointing out the months of neglect on this site, but so much has happened that it’s difficult to jump back into everything in the middle of it. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, it was too personal and too private to write about. And then it seemed to unimportant. And then it became too far removed. It’s strange to talk about the atypical home routines that become routine.

On Thursday, a few days from now, will be my mom’s last chemotherapy session. I asked if I could take her. When the New Year is rung in all around the world, I often completely fail to make a big to-do. I just can’t be bothered, it’s too arbitrary, simply a convention of modern society. While I find the end of the year a bit blase, the end of chemotherapy strikes me as a big deal. There are still a few things that my mom will be dealing with, but it feels like the end of an era, the close to a chapter. The job I took while I was staying with my family will be wrapping up soon, and it just feels like –  soon there will be a montage and music with feeling and a pithy voiceover to synthesize and summarize the last few months.

The problem with this comparison is that at the end of a movie, the protagonist is meant to have had some sort of epiphany, some integral evolution that makes them a more complete person. So far I’ve managed to remember to change the year when I write the date. If I realize any other inherent character flaws that have recently been eradicated in my person (thus allowing for a very satisfying arc), I’ll be sure to let you know. In the meanwhile, I’ll just have to settle for the conventional new year’s resolutions, or rather resolutions as to what to do when our post-cancer lives resume. Tragically, this does not come with a soundtrack or voiceover… unless I take to carrying around large speakers and an iPod. I’m not ruling anything out.