Short 'n Curlies #43 by Si Spurrier
The Keyboard Is My FuckMonkey:
Like a sluttish protein syruping itself into the Primordial Cell, Google continues to invade my Working Routine.
"I'm vital to your evolutionary complexity," it smarms, "but I'm only looking-out for myself. How did you ever manage without me?"
This time round the Nonsensically-Named-Infopire made its presence felt — by which I mean Screwed Me Over — during the planning stage of a new screenplay. Listen And Tremble:
See, for the first time in my life I'm working on a major project with a co-writer. This is a fascinating experience — particularly if you're charitable enough to allow "infuriating" and "exhausting" as synonyms of the word "fascinating" (alongside, I admit, "rewarding", "gratifying" and "yesyesyespleasetaketheblameifthefinalproductsucks"). You know you've found your perfect Collaborator when you can bear to listen to her explaining that your dialogue sucks, your plot is riddled with clichés, and your character-arcs are the literary equivalent of Used Colostomy Bags being hurled against the faces of startled kittens… and then instead of gnawing-open your radial arteries or throwing a house at her, you simply sigh and say "yeah, I thought so…" And then move-on.
It's also been interesting to watch all my Cockcentric themes torn-down by the iron first of WomanRight. I thought I was taking my (female) protagonist on a journey of empowerment and truth, sensitive to the realities of her gender in the correct historical context… when all along I was enslaving her in the glans-shaped chains of testicular objectification. You live and learn.
Anyway: part of the story takes place on the British coast during a very specific historical episode during the second World War. (That's "dubyah-dubyah-too", for the casual American.) The scene calls for Eerie Ancient Ruins Tucked Among Jagged Toothlike Crags; Crashing Waves; Desperate Scrambles Across Unforgiving Ridges; Dramatic Plummetings Off Vertiginous Cliffs and That Sort Of Thing. One idle afternoon it occurred to me I could conduct a little Contextual Absorption — letting my narrative psyche soak-in the colour and geography of the relevant environment; evoking a little Mood which I could bring to the writing-table — using an oh-so-modern tool.
Step forwards Google Streetview.
Now. I don't know how many of you have had occasion, in your lives — perhaps on a sunny summer vacation — to while-away a few idle moments driving up and down serpentine country-lanes in pursuit of a Nice View. Maybe with a picnic, right? Or a mistress, or a porn-mag, or a bottle of medical-grade alcohol, or just a hosepipe to fit to your exhaust. Lovely.
Well: Take it from me that a) it's not nearly as much fucking fun when you're doing so in the armpit of your stinky office on a sweaty Tuesday Morning via the jerky blur-beset mess that is Streetview, and that b) whichever Neanderthalic Wankoids Google hired to drive their camera-cars, evidently made it their mission to pootle along every roadkill-strewn, cowshit-spattered, inbred-village-pocked mud-track in the East of England with the sole aim of switching off the camera whenever the bloody hedgerows looked like they might thin-out, or the endless fucking sand-dunes took a break.
It took me Two Hours to find the nearest view of the sea to my intended Location. That's less time than it would've taken me to jump on the tube, switch trains at King's Cross, and fucking go there. Three cheers for modern technology. AND, when I finally stared in triumph at the semi-occluded view between a blurred-out tourist and another fucking Sand Dune, what did I see?
Mile after mile after mile of flat, featureless, grey, resolutely Crag-free pebble beaches. Slightly less dramatic than a potato.
So: the temptation to cheat. To do a Prince of Thieves — remember that? The floppyhaired yank wandering idly between the Cliffs of Dover (that's about as South as you can get, merickychums) and Hadrian's Wall (England/Scotland border, a good 400 miles away) in what's supposed to be a Few Minutes — and thoroughly disregard Known Geography. After all, a movie is — by definition — Falsehood, whether it's describing true events or not… surely the Story should be prioritized above the Detail?
Well, yes and no. The problem with that approach is that it naturally tends towards convention. If the writer's prepared to sacrifice "minor" honesty in his pursuit of theme or tone or whateverthefuckitis, then it betrays an overly-rigid adherence to Things He Thinks Are Right. He's coming at the whole thing from the wrong direction: he's got his Moral Of The Story all planned-out — or his Big Plot Twist, or his Money Shot, or x y z — and he's going to make damn sure that's how it goes whether it sells-out his characters or compromises the reality of the events being told, or plain Doesn't Make Sense. Nine times out of ten this sort of bullshit happens because a writer or director is determined to stick to a rigid set of expectations that we all — as Western Cinemagoers — have built-in: whether it's story-structure, satisfying character-arcs, Happy Fucking Endings, or something as simple as Background. Horror story = Darkness And Creepy Locations. Heist movie = One Of The Team Will Betray The Others. RomCom = They End Up Fucking. And so on.
This is why, sometimes, the movies which don't play the game are the ones we notice. The ones which deliberately create problems for themselves; surrendering to the awkwardness and above-all untidiness of real life. They understand that there's only so much inconvenience and oddness you can grind-away under the wheels of the Narrative Juggernaut before all that's left is a perfectly smooth Turd, identical to every other.
Yes: Story Is All-Important. But like travelling in any car — even one driven by a couple of grinning titmonkeys in Google T-Shirts — if the ride's too smooth, too shock-absorbed, then before you know it you're barfing down the chassis.
So we will tell a horror story on a clear, calm, sunny day. We will render scenes of occult strangeness and mystery among the endless sweep of cold, anodyne shingle beaches.
And, with a little luck, the script'll be better for it.
…If only because it wouldn't do to pitch the fucking thing to SuperRich Movie Exec #A, only to have the powder-snocking Kingpin reach for his Google Streetview for a little Deal-Sealing mice-en-scene.
Now. Anyone got Kevin Costner's number?
News From The Spursphere:
In the course of my Sit To Pee experiment (as detailed last week) — and the resultant Extra Time Spent Pondering The Inner-Doors Of Assorted Conveniences — I've noticed my local coffee-shop has a "no smoking" sign in its cubicle. The stated reason for requesting that you Not Light Up isn't — as you might expect — "because it's bad for you", nor "because it stinks worse than your gutslurry", nor even just "because it's illegal, dickhead", but rather "to preserve the purity of our coffee."
…Which is sort of brilliant, I think, as a bit of P.R. logic, but rather ignores the fact that the unwashed Odourjockeys who clamour into the place whenever I find a quiet table — to sit nearby, talk too loud, and waft their infections armpits in my direction — are almost certainly capable of Ruining the Purity Of My Fucking Coffee while it's still growing in a plantation on the tropic of Capricorn several thousand miles away.
Priority Fail, Starbucks. Hang thy mermaidy head.
Find Me @:
Send wurdz, thoughts, stories, Hatings, and Reasons Why I'm Warming To The Idea Of Owning A Cat, to the Only Checked Occasionally And I Might Not Bother Replying At All Ha Ha Ha email address:
Or the It Might Not Get To Me At All But If It Does I Promise To Recycle It snailmail address:
C/O William Christensen,
515 N. Century Blvd.
Rantoul, IL 61866
(Disclaimer: Secretly, I'm nice.)
Stay up-to-date and support the site by following Bleeding Cool on Google News today!