Monthly Archives: April 2011

Scarface, Part One

Those that know me (or, failing that, those who creepily stare at me from across rooms) know that, up close, I’ve got a few divots in my otherwise unblemished boyish good looks. I have very nearly symmetrical scars above my eyes, for example. You’d think that such perfectly mirrored chunks taken out of my brow would have been from some freak accident involving a obsessive-compulsive mugger, or from a run-in with curious but aesthetically advanced aliens, but no–they were, in fact, thirteen years apart and under wildly different circumstances.

The second withdrawal from my facial meat-bank was at the end of my first year in university. The Annex, as my floor in residence was called, was a pretty tight-knit group. Since we were all so tight, we were admittedly bummed when one of the largest pieces of our puzzle, Big Fun, disappeared without saying goodbye.

Morosely, we drank our sorrows away in front of the building. We could easily have all gotten caught by our floor supervisor, or any other school authority, or even the cops, but we didn’t care. Big Fun was gone, and if we got taken away it couldn’t be any worse than what we were already feeling.

And then, in the darkness, we saw it.

A shape, bearing down on us, moving quickly. It was Big Fun.

I leaped up, leaving my drink on the table, and grabbed him in a bear hug. Immediately, one of the other guys leaped up as well, his 40 of Budweiser firmly still in hand.

Everyone gathered around, trying to see if I was alive.

 As it turns out, I wasn’t really that okay.

After that initial “WAUGH,” I seemed to be a little calmer about it all than most of the rest of the floor, and spearheaded the effort to get myself inside, cleaned up, and patched back together. Our res supervisor, the Don, came by while I was cleaning up, and he seemed to have been celebrating something that night himself:

Just another night in the Annex.

Paddle your own canoe,

Trevor

PS: Noticed that I only told one story, did you? Well, it’s taken a while to get this one up, so I figure I’ll give you this and we’ll come back to how I got the first scar on my face later. It’s cuter, and I’m homesick as hell already, being in Kingston over Easter instead of on the farm, so to save face (so to speak) I’m going to spend a little more time on it.

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Vigil for a Fish

There are a lot of nerdy things I’ll cop to. Being totally fascinated with Canadian airplanes and pilots in WWII is one. Being competitive about StarCraft and feeling like I should be training for it like it’s a half-marathon and not a meaningless video game is another. But one of the things I’m not as ready to admit to–and I have to, to tell this tale–is that I kind of love fish.

Not all fish, mind you. Specifically, bettas. Specifically specifically cool-coloured male bettas, the fighting fish you hear about. They’ve got attitude, and.. well.. they’re kinda pretty. They’re like biological decoration, all shimmery-like and blowing bubbles and if the house is quiet for extended periods of time it’s something to talk at so you don’t go out of your head with boredom. I mean, you’re talking to a fish, so it’s still kind of crazy-looking, but the fish doesn’t judge you. I don’t think.

The other night, a little after midnight. I was getting home from an all-around awesome evening out. I parked my car, the ever-failing RustMobile, really poorly, because my body was basically frozen to the gas pedal and the wheel was frozen into place. The heater makes terrible noises and it’s more of a hassle to suffer mild hypothermia than it is to subject my brain to the Mobile’s banshee shrieks of pain. It was cold. Ottawa decided that winter wasn’t over for a couple of days and wanted to take it out on me.

I warm up pretty quickly. I’m powered by a small-scale thermonuclear reactor. Fact.

So as I’m warming up and pouring some water into myself, I take a peek at my current betta, the Captain. The Captain’s tank was moved next to the kitchen window when the weather first got warm so he could catch more sun, and the warmth had really perked him up. I hadn’t thought much about him other to feed him over the last couple of days, and as I got my glass I realized (in spite of my nuclear-powered self-heating) just how cold and drafty it was near the window.

Son of a bitch.

My last betta died after moving to and from Kingston with me a few times, but the Captain is only a month old and is a tenacious, angry little fish. What a bummer. I’m not usually much to worry when a betta dies; they’re fairly delicate creatures and all. Still. Something about this tweaked me the wrong way. Maybe it’s all the gloopiness I’ve been feeling in my placement, but when I felt how cold the water in the tank was, my heart went out to the little guy. Bettas ideally live in water in the mid-70s (Farenheit); it was barely 65 (about 18 degrees C)  in the house and the tank was far colder than that. It was like three degrees away from being a block of ice.  I scooped him up in my glass and went to the bathroom, ready to commit him to a watery, porcelain grave.

It was almost imperceptible. Just the smallest of movements.

Then nothing. I stared for a minute, waiting for something else, moving the glass a little, hoping the currents would inspire another little movement.

Still nothing. But the first movement from the Captain was enough. I started running warm water in the sink and slowly replaced the cold, dead water in the glass with hot water.

I almost cheered. The Captain’s first action when I moved him into his tank was to try and fight me and he was fighting again. I swirled the glass a little to get him moving, and…

…pissed at being shaken like a bouillabaisse-flavoured martini, he tried to fight me again. This time I did cheer a little, quiet-like, because the house was sleeping. The cheer was short-lived, though.

I couldn’t believe it. We were so close.

I wasn’t about to give up after that threat display from the Captain. I ran more warm water and rotated the glass again, trying to encourage more motion. As he kept warming up, he started to right himself. The water was moving and he was slowly moving his fins, trying to right himself, but he was still buoyant, and every time the Captain made it back underwater, he’d float belly-up again. The more he warmed up, the more he struggled. The more he struggled, the more tired he got. The more tired he got, the more he floated. Maybe I was projecting onto him, but I was almost starting to see defeat in his little fishy eyes. I know I was feeling defeated. It was looking like the Captain was going to take a flush, like other bettas before him.

But unlike the other fish, who I disposed of after they were dead, I was suddenly hit by the realization that I was going to watch the Captain die.

The Captain made a last bid to stay submerged, and, exhausted, failed to do so. Totally belly-up, and unable to right himself. His fins moved slowly and ineffectually, eyes staring blankly out of the glass. I held the glass at eye level and locked eyes with him.

Then, a funny thing happened. But not with the fish. He stayed totally still. This thing, it happened with me.

There have been a couple of deaths in my family in the last few years. First, my grandfather, who was as vivacious and cheeky the last time I saw him as the first. He died so suddenly that I hadn’t even had time to respond to his last email (it was a chain-letter joke; I can’t remember the punchline, but I think it was something about Australians and koala shit, and I laughed my ass off and never got to tell him). I still haven’t entirely come to terms with that loss; I still don’t understand it, frankly. More recently, the single most alive person I’ve ever known, my aunt, made entirely of world travel, arts and culture, marathons in Athens, good food, and good will, was lost to cancer.

Even the damn RustMobile, the old Pontiac I learned to drive in, was falling apart.

All of this–grandpa, my aunt, even the goddamn car–kind of hit me as I was looking at the Captain’s limp little body floating at the top of the glass. And, in an uncharacteristic display of sap, I spoke to him:

Okay, maybe it wasn’t actually that sappy a sentiment, now that I look back. But there I was, talking to a fish, looking crazy, well after one in the morning on a work night. I’d been trying to coax him back to the land of the living for nearly an hour, for no really logical reason.

And then I smiled. There was a little look–probably in my own head, a product of wine and now sleep-deprivation–playing over the Captain’s face.

I could swear to God he was judging me for talking to a fish. How nuts do you have to be to talk to a fish? Especially a dead fish.

I swirled the water gently in the glass.

The Captain fought. I just kept the water warm; I filled another glass with really hot water and brought it into my bedroom, periodically topping up the Captain’s water from the hot glass to keep it warm and fresh. I put him on my bedside table and gave him a nibble of food. He ate slowly, doing lazy laps of the glass every couple of bites as though testing his legs. Fins. Every so often, he rolled over and struggled to right himself, so I put my hand into the glass and gently nudged him right-side up.

It was like watching somebody recovering from transplant surgery, but without knowing whether or not the transplant has taken. It was all very Schroedinger.

Finally I made the call that I’d done everything I could reasonably do for a tiny fish. I climbed into bed, and just before I shut off the light, I looked over at the Captain. He was listing a little, but his fins were paddling away and he seemed, for the moment at least, stable. I tapped the glass.

The Captain’s back in his tank now, enjoying being able to stretch his fins and dart around again. He’s in a warmer spot in the house, near a heating vent, by a window, so he gets the best of both warmth and light. Finally, in one night, spending hours staying up far too late to minister to a fish that cost me all of $3.99, I finally exercised some of my demons about having to say goodbye to people before I was ready to let go of them. And now, a pet whose only previous purpose had been to be decorative and to act as a sounding board when the house is empty, now holds a surprisingly special place in my life.

I still look crazy talking to a two-inch-long fish. But now I don’t care as much.


Goop and Podcasts

I’m not sure what’s happened over the course of this last round of practicum.

For those not in the know (and I’ve been talking about it nonstop, so people not in the know are probably, like, someone in Cote d’Ivoire that has bigger things to worry about right now), I’ve been working for the last couple of weeks at Operation Come Home (http://www.operationcomehome.ca/frame.html) as my alternative practicum. They’re an organization that works with homeless kids, and one of the programs they offer is an education program. I’ve been working as a tutor, programs advisor, and general kind of educational dude for the last two weeks.

It feels like it’s been years.

Not because I don’t like it or anything like that. I love it, more than I think I’ve ever loved work before. The staff is incredible. The kids are so raw and real and open that I feel like I’m really affecting them and interacting with their souls, or soul equivalents, or fundamental truths of self, or true selves, or whatever. They’re some of the most human human beings I’ve ever worked with, and their stories are going to inform how I live my life from now on.

My politics. My ambitions. Probably my career path. Where I volunteer. How I see my peers. How I see people as I walk down the street. Who I choose to judge (or not judge) and associate with (or avoid).

I don’t know how, but this placement, these kids, have reduced me to a gloopy pile of introspective mess recently. I tend not to dwell on how fortunate I am to have the family, friends, and general sense of security that I have. I take for granted the fact that I made it through high school with nothing more dramatic than some bullying to impede me (although it seemed, and was, legitimately dramatic at the time).  I take for granted mental health, creativity, and ambition that is bolstered by a sense of self-confidence, of self-worth, and the feeling–even better, the profound, unshakeable knowledge–that I have something to offer. I take being a natural with computers, even high-end hardware and software, as part and parcel of being part of the original internet generation (Facebook O.G., I called it once). I have writing as my outlet, and creative projects in film and video and art as my hobby, and I have the resources and support and education to continue to learn and develop and push those things. Even this keyboard, these screens that I’m typing on, are blessings. The roof over my head. The ability to make money. The chances I’ve had. The second and third chances that I’ve managed to use to my betterment.

These are realizations, thoughts, that are long overdue. I feel more self-aware, less selfish, more relativist.

I don’t know if I like feeling this way.

I said this on the last episode of the podcast. With everything happening in the world and in my day-to-day workings on prac, between Libya and Japan and Gloucester Street where I spend my days, I’m finding it hard to get fired up about things that I would have been gushing over three weeks ago. Take, for example, the Green Lantern footage that came out at WonderCon:

Okay, I’m not that far gone. That’s freaking AWESOME and I’m going to write an article on Bent later about exactly why.

But you know what I’m getting at. It’s harder to find Charlie Sheen at all relevant… well, ever, but I should be dropping a podcast about his show tanking, or about anything else happening in entertainment right now, and I just do not give a shit.

I wonder often if I’m changing a little more each day, or if I’m just growing into myself. And as much as I love the work I’m doing now–as much as I kind of hope I get to do this kind of work for years–I kind of want a break to recalibrate and enjoy things that are totally irrelevant for a while.

Paddle your own canoe, guys and gals.


So Many Things to Do (vol. 1)

Every so often I have to do one of these lists in which I jot down ideas about projects I want to do. There are a zillion things I want to do, or have started, and if I don’t spill ’em out from time to time I end up either a) obsessing about them or b) forgetting good ideas. So it’s time to share some of them here, partially to spill ’em and partially to see if there are any creative types out there who want to bite on them and be a collaborator. Some of these are already on the go.

All of these premises, original characters, titles, etc. are (c) Trevor LaForce 2011 and steps have been taken to ensure the security of these IPs. So if you’re trolling for shit to steal, shuffle on.

Tron: Morphology (with Lesley) (Short film)

Still in perpetual production hell, this has been delayed intentionally once, unintentionally once, and intentionally a third time. Gave me time to get a new computer together and also gave us time to figure out locations and do it after I’m not freaking out about school.

The Wasteland Diaries (Game)

A very short, classic point-and-click adventure game built in AGS, the Wasteland Diaries follows a long-haul trader in the ramshackle town that sits on the ruins of Oklahoma City. After finding a runaway and helping her back to civilization, he discovers that his life is becoming exceedingly difficult. Merchandise goes missing along with Rock, the runaway, and as he searches for his missing goods he begins to discover that Rock is far more than just another lost child of the wastes.

Picking Up Dead Chicks (with Lesley) (Feature film)

When a sleepy town is beseiged by the slavering undead, it’s up to a nameless womanizing zombie-killing walking munitions dump to save the day. But for twentysomethings Matt and Michelle, a more pressing concern is keeping their infuriating significant others from being stupid to death. With the help of their own personal John Q. Rambo and the slightly undermedicated guidance of the marine-biologist-turned-zombie-expert Doctor Zim, Matt and Michelle find themselves shanghaied into an effort to save the known world from the undead plague.

Gare Lake (tentatively with Aleta) (Feature film)

Gare Lake, Ontario, is essentially a college town with a heavy emphasis on competitive sports, and after a long rehabilitation one swimmer is ready to reclaim her place on the podium. As she begins her training anew, she becomes aware of a presence dogging her every move. An entity with a long-running grudge against her family and a centuries-old axe to grind has finally returned to the dark waters of Gare Lake, and there’s no way to stop it.

Capital (TV)

An hour-long TV pilot and series bible. Conceived as a melange of True Blood, Blade: The Series, The Sporanos, and Paul Gross’ H2O, Capital is the story of Julian, a runner for a prominent crime family based out of Montreal. As the mob grows in influence, Julian is transferred to the nation’s capital, where he is assigned to the Don’s daughter as protection and a go-between so that her political manipulations aren’t traced to her. Julian begins to discover that the conspiracy goes far deeper than he expected, and there’s a reason that the Don and his politically elite daughter, Ahsha, are never seen out during the day…

Spuria (Game)

A design document for a videogame. This one is a little complicated to get into. To break it down: two playable main characters. Two concurrently running storylines in a science-fantasy setting a la Final Fantasy 8. Freerunning. Action RPG. Romance. Open warfare. Necromancy. It is an adaptation of Plato’s The Republic. Please continue to be confused and fascinated until the game’s release, approximately in 2023.

Dust and Ashes (Novel)

This one’s going to end up being either a collab or I’ll buy out the other main party responsible for the work. A while back, I got into a nation-based forum roleplay thing. Dust and Ashes charts the rise and fall of a number of city-states in post-apocalyptic America. There was a walled city, formerly a federal penitentiary for the criminally insane, populated by the drug-addled descendants of the inmates; roving bands of mutants calling themselves the Brotherhood; migrating nomadic tribes; and a wealthy trading town sitting on the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania, styled Nova Roma in the tradition of grand hubris that accompanies great wealth. This sprawling story of politics, trade, drugs, and eventually war was some of my favourite writing in a year (2010) that included scripts like Trauma and Foundations, both works I’m fairly proud of. I’m going to post segments of D&A here, actually, so that people can get a taste of my writing beyond the prose poetry stuff.

Saviour (Novel & Feature Film)

This is the big one. It’s prize-winning literature and Oscar nominations and moneymaker all in one. It’s an examination of word religion and geopolitics from the diametrically opposed points of view of the religious right and the secular left. It’s the story of fundamentally broken individuals and how they define themselves both within their faiths and without. It’s a story of redemption, and a discussion of how far one can ever truly be redeemed. It’s shallow love, and self-compromise, and profound, aching love, and unrequited, desperate pleas that cannot ever truly be answered. It’s an interplanary superhero adventure; it’s war; it’s salvation and self-condemnation and strafing runs by A-10 Warthogs in downtown LA and torturous truth. I’m going to try and write an abstract–not a pitch, but an outline of the plot of the first volume (Demiurge), just to contextualize all of this.

Margaret Meridale, Maggie to her friends, is, or at the very least tries to be a good Catholic. After losing her husband and infant son in a car accident, the church and her priest, Father Paul, were all that kept her sane and motivated through her rehabilitation. Something was forever changed in her, though, and both her and others’ actions on this Earth became decreasingly important as the years wore on. Nothing seemed to move her, no-one’s touch reached her. The warm, invested person she was vanished, and, though she performed the actions a good Christian was supposed to perform, they were done with no love in her heart. Even the singing of the choir at her church, which once moved her to tears, could not stir her.

One day, however, during service, the leaden roof of her church is suddenly torn like tissue paper. Oak beams are tossed like matchsticks. Stained glass windows, over two hundred years old, explode over the streets of Montreal and the life-sized carved figure of Christ tears himself free of his crucifix and splits open to reveal an individual who seems to reverberate as though one of the strings holding the fabric of the world together had been plucked. He calls himself Zayin, and proclaims that he is the returning messiah that the devout of the Ambrahamic religions had been waiting for. He names Paul and Maggie the first of his disciples and invites them to walk the world with him, correcting misinterpretations of God’s word and uniting the people to face Satan’s final bid to take over the Earth.

Zayin begins attracting incredible amounts of attention from the devout, the nonbelievers, and governments alike as he tours with his disciples, preaching, performing minor miracles, and gathering followers. He claims After a Time’s Square sermon in which he demonstrates his ability to heal the sick and levitate, he is shot by a fundamentalist Baptist sect. As he recovers, the president of the USA, quickly becoming a believer in Zayin and his message of socialist philosophy, universal cooperation and tolerance, has the Secretary of Defense assign protection to Zayin as he recovers. The former Navy SEAL becomes the third of Zayin’s disciples.

Not long after Zayin recovers, the president, who has been growing increasingly deferent to Zayin, dies under mysterious circumstances. The vice-president, an evangelical, has been openly opposed to Zayin from the moment he arrived on Earth. He sets up, apparently at the request of a small group of soldiers at a remote base in the southern USA, a special sunset sermon with the new “saviour.” Once Zayin arrives, however, he is brutally murdered by the soldiers.

Margaret begins a long pilgrimmage to his grave site, and Zayin wakes up in Hell. He is not who he believed himself to be; in fact, he has been a tool, an instrument, spreading dissonance at the behest of dark powers. Whether he was preaching the word of God or not is irrelevant. He is, in reality, a horrible person, who was granted powers simply to sway the masses and cause division.

On this plane of existence, tensions rise between the United States and other countries around the world. Civil unrest breaks out. The invasion of Earth from the Pit is mere days away, and only Zayin knows the plan and has the power to stop it…

I am so close to being smart enough and informed enough to write this book, guys. It infuriates me that five years since the initial idea, I still don’t have it written, but the product is becoming increasingly refined every day. I estimate it’ll end up running some 750 pages; this summary is just part 1 of a 3-part book. Second part roughly follows a quest structure, a sort of Exodus-lite. Third part is balls-out action.

 

Well, that’s it for the Spill for now. This felt good, talking about some of the things that are on backburners. And I like the idea of spilling out some old Dust & Ashes for you guys. Someone is going to fall in love with the characters Faye and Teddy and be pissed that I haven’t written more, I think, but meh. You get to wait.