Thursday, February 28, 2013

Not for the pats-on-the-back (or, "My wife told me to do what?")

Recently, filmmaker Richard Griffin (Beyond the Dunwich Horror, Nun of That, The Disco Exorcist, and the upcoming Dr. Frankenstein's Wax Museum of the Hungry Dead) posted on his Facebook wall what he observed to be the difference between fame and success. On the surface, I know the difference. My late grandfather would joke about how I could be famous as a writer if I just wrote some sort of tell-all book about a politician (and included lots of details about their sex life), and I would laugh and joke that I wasn't looking for fame. I was only looking to be successful as a writer (of non-tell-all books).

But it's hard (for me) in the creative arts I currently pursue. As a writer, I know that I'll get closer to that success if I produce prose longer than 5,000 words, but the short stories? I can bang those out, edit them, and get them out there for people's Kindle in a short amount of time. Griffin said:
I think with the internet we're getting too accustomed to instant gratification when it comes to our art. We're all looking for the our cyber pat-on-the-back instead of just letting the work speak for ourselves and being satisfied with the results.

He's entirely right, at least as far as my own productivity has been lately. Write a short story, produce a podcast, put it out there, wait for the pats-on-the-back. And in some cases, I've become entirely too dependent on the pats-on-the-back.
I believe the key is just to be happy with your work. Do your best, and do it for yourself first, and if you think it's quality...chances are other people will as well. Don't sweat being famous, the odds are stacked against you anyways.
In my heart, I know I'm not pursuing my various creative endeavors because I want to be "famous." But sometimes there's a childish part of my brain that wants a little attention, and it gets a little unruly from time to time.

The instant gratification internet machine has made it difficult for me to keep perspective on the WHY of why I do the things I do. I produce two podcasts because I love podcasting. I write because I love writing. Sure, there's a mercenary element to it when I think about putting my writing out for sale since I do want the writing to become a significant part of my income. In the end, I need to do the work that I enjoy doing BECAUSE I enjoy doing it.

Earlier this week, I got hung up on foolishly feeling like I wasn't getting the deserved recognition for something I was doing. I had some other things going on in my head, and I allowed myself to get stuck so much that I had a mini-mental-meltdown over what will, ultimately, be a menial footnote in the final story of my creative endeavors. I'm not proud of how I acted/reacted, and I need to keep in mind that while it's nice to get those pats-on-the-back, that's not the point. It's about doing a good job on the things that I enjoy.
Doing this is actually harder than it sounds.
Yes it is, Mr. Griffin . . . yes it is. I'm trying to keep that in mind.

(I have some great friends that did more than their fair share by listening to me spiral into that weird depression that day. My wife read the email exchanges, and she said they "did everything right" in terms of how they handled their friend Derek getting lost in his own head. Granted, my wife also texted me to tell me I need to work on developing some "self soothing" skills. It would have been awkward if I tried self soothing myself at the time as I was at the waiting room at the doctor's office, though.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Thursday Thirteen: Film Stuff


Man cannot live by zombie movies alone. Or Hammer films. Or horror movies in general. At least, THIS man can't. I love good film, and a lot of my favorite films aren't zombie/Hammer/horror films at all.

While there were some times in my life during which I eschewed certain types of films (I remember telling my mom I thought the movies she watched on American Movie Classics weren't any good because there were in black and white - I was a dumb little kid), I'm trying to make up for that now. I'm known as a monster guy these days (for better or worse), but the following are Thirteen Film Things I Wish I Knew More About (that's a mouthful):

- Kaiju films. In April 2012, I saw King Kong vs. Godzilla at a local theater, and, as I posted back then, I felt an obsession take hold. I went back to the beginning, and watched the original Godzilla (two different versions on the excellent Criterion Blu-ray release as well as a DVD release with a different commentary track). This movie was GOOD. I've since been working my way through Toho's kaiju films with the occasional diversion into Gamera territory every since, and have been having a BLAST. I do regret that I didn't watch these movies growing up as I think I would have been best served watching Godzilla, King Ghidorah, and the rest as a younger movie fan; as I watch them now, I find myself picking apart the details, noticing the technical accomplishments/flaws, etc. I've actually watched more documentaries and YouTube videos about the making of the kaiju films than the films themselves, and I'd like to get back to "just" watching the movies. (And listening to the Kaijucast is just so much fun!)

- On the Beach. I had an opportunity to watch the Stanley Kramer-directed 1959 film for Mail Order Zombie back in 2011, and it quickly became one of my favorite new-to-me films of the year. I vowed back then to learn more about the movie itself, and have Philip R. Davey's book When Hollywood Came to Melbourne on my Kindle . . . but haven't read it yet. I'll get to it . . . at some point . . .

- Spaghetti Westerns. I'm learning, and enjoying it. I've been a fan of movies like Django for a while now, but I've never really delved too deeply into this (sub-)genre over the years. I'm making up for lost time now, have been working through books like Any Gun Can Play (which took its title from a 1967 film of the same name . . . which is all kinds of fun!), and have been working with a local film company that's showing some classic Spaghetti Western films here in town - like this upcoming showing!

- Non-Universal classic horror and sci-fi films. Recently, I had an opportunity to talk at length with someone about 1958's The Fly, and I realized I haven't watched enough of these classic genre films from studios other than Universal. Maybe it's because when I first started getting into these films, the Universal films were the easiest to find (they were well-branded and well-placed at the video rental shops), and it didn't help that most documentaries I had access to at the time were Universal-produced so I only learned about the Universal monsters and company. I've filled in a lot of the cinematic gaps in my library and memory, but there's so many more out there I still need to see!

- Superhero films. Okay, you ready? You have your pair of scissors out? I've got my geek card right here. Let me hold it out in front of me . . . so you can cut it up when I tell you I've not watched ANY of the current cycle of Marvel superhero films . . . or any of the Nolan-directed Batman films . . . they just don't call to me. I mean, it's cool if they're not "for me," and I'm not a big Joss Whedon fan anyway, so it's not like I feel like I'm missing out by not seeing The Avengers, but . . . I don't know. Occasionally, I wonder if I'm missing out, but at this point, it feels like there's a LOT of superhero-movie-minutes out there I'd need to consume if I'm going to catch up. You know what really got me to thinking about this? Marvel's/Disney's announcement that a Doctor Strange movie is in the works. Doctor Strange? By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth!

- Lucha films. You can't be a listener of the B-Movie Cast and not know a little something about El Santo. And, truth be told, I've known a little bit about this (sub-)genre for a little while . . . in that I knew it existed. But I just didn't "get it." I hadn't watched any of the films - not even the El Santo films - so I was completely in the dark when it came to masked Mexican wrestlers fighting the forces of evil. I finally got around to watching one of them - Mil Mascares vs. The Aztec Mummy - and LOVED it. It's goofy and ridiculous and over-the-top-(rope?), but, man, it was a blast. And last year, I read Keith J. Rainville's Zombi Mexicano, and started making a list of titles I need to track down. I understand it might be a bit more difficult to track these films down - in English or at least with English subtitles - but I'm looking forward to whatever I can find!

- Mummy films. Speaking of mummy films . . . or not . . . I'm a sucker for a good mummy movie. Of course, there's the Universal and Hammer films, but I've stumbled across a few other classic mummy films over the years, and maybe it's the proto-slasher-ness of them, but I love 'em. Even something as goofy as Dawn of the Mummy is fun (for me) to watch. During the black-and-white days, Universal was the home of THE Mummy Movie, but other studios took a chance with a mummy film here and there as well (like 1957's Pharoah's Curse - which I liked - and 1958's Curse of the Faceless Man - which I haven't seen yet, but it's on my Amazon wishlist), so there's plenty out there for me to unearth.

- The Planet of the Apes franchise. If there's anything left of my geek card after getting it hacked up over not watching any of the current wave of superhero films, you might as well just take it away now and set whatever reamains on fire. I was talking with my friend Scott the other day, and revealed upon him a great and terrible secret: I've never watched these films in their entirety. I've seen parts of the first film, and I guess I saw the Tim Burton film (ugh), but that's it.

- Amicus. And speaking of talking with a friend and realizing I missed out on something, my friend Larry is a huge fan of the Amicus films, and you'd think someone who is so into Hammer and falls before the altar of Peter Cushing would have most of the Amicus films in his movie collection, but that's not the case. I've seen a handful - Dr. Terror's House of Horrors is a particular favorite - but Larry's got me beat in the Amicus department.

- The kinds of movies that keep turning up on TCM. Like I said at the beginning of this, I gave my mom grief over the kinds of movies she'd watch on her movie channels. While she wouldn't be caught dead watching what plays on the channel-previously-known-as-American Movies Classics today, I don't know what she'd think if she watched me as I spend about half-an-hour every weekend with the DVR's remote control, scanning the upcoming week's schedule for movies that catch my eye. Unfortunately, I end up scheduling a number of movies - both feature-length and shorts - that I never have time/DVR-space to watch!

- Euorspy films. Working with Dorado Films, I've discovered this (sub-)genre, and it's a blast! I knew James Bond had a worldwide impact, and I suppose it makes sense that European filmmakers would take some inspiration from the Bond franchise and make their own films (they did it with Westerns and zombie films). Agent 077 as portrayed by Ken Clark has become a particular favorite of mine, and if there are other Eurospy films out there like Agent Bloody Mary, From the Orient With Fury, and Special Mission Lady Chaplin, I'm in for a treat!

- The movies I have on my shelves that I haven't watched yet. Does this really need any further explanation?

- Beach movies, especially those produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff. Don't judge me. I don't have to explain myself to you.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

1/12th of 2013 behind me - how am I doing so far?

I thought I'd look back at the resolutions I set for myself last month, and see how I'm doing so far.

- More time and experiences with Brenda. We're doing better at coordinating our weekends and free time, but I always want more! (Unexpected side effect - after having a great weekend with Brenda, Mondays are REALLY tough!) We haven't had any new "experiences," though . . .

- Write, write, write. I finished a short story last month that's cooling a bit before I take another pass at it. After that, I'll hand it off to some beta readers and I'll go from there. I'm currently working on another short story now, plotting/outlining a novel, and trying to make sense of all the other seeds and threads in my brain. (I've been struggling with all the different stories and types of stories I want to write; everything's getting jumbled up in my brain and I can't seem to get them all out. Someone in my writing support group called it "logodiarhhea.")

- Publish. Nothing yet. Plans are afoot . . .

- Stop doing things that feel like "a job" when it's not my job. More plans are afoot . . .

- Slimming down. I'm ashamed to say that I've made no (cumulative) progress. I got back on the treadmill a bit, dropped some pounds, then added them back on. I'm still at 328 pounds.

- Slimming down our home. Nothing done here.

- Sorting comics. Outside of pulling out some collected editions of Geoff Johns' Justice Society of America to read, I've done nothing with my comics.

- Continue consuming and promoting media outside of my comfort zone. I've read more pulp and other assorted fiction in January than I did in any one month last year. I've listened to more non-horror podcasts. It's been good.

- Cut back on mindless media consumption. I no longer feel the need to finish a movie just because I started it (even if my original intention was to finish it for a podcast review), and I've been able to start removing books from my Kindle if they aren't grabbing me within the first few pages. I don't watch a lot of "crap TV" these days, and I'd like to continue this trend.

- Consolidate/organize my media. Nothing done here.

- Finances. We are about to get hit with some expenses that we weren't planning on, so things are looking tight.

- Getting involved in the local "geek" or "genre" scene. I've been working with Dorado Films and we've made some decisions/inquiries about being involved in an upcoming Portland-based pop culture convention.

- Podcasting. Plans are afoot.

So that's, what, four-and-a-half or so non-failures out of thirteen goals? While that's less than a 50% success rate, I'm refusing to get too down about it. I've got 11 more months to turn all of these into successes!