THUMBNAIL THURSDAY DOESN’T MISS THE WANKERS

Ten years of working in arts administration, and oh gods, how many of these types did I come across.

Pro tip: if you dress like you think an artist dresses, talk like you think an artist talks, and patronise like you think an artist patronises, you still ain’t an artist. And if your job is to distribute money to artists, and you earn more from it than they do, then go fuck yourself. (Looking at you, pretty much the entirety of the Australian arts funding structure).

“Artist? Oh darling, where’s the money in that? I’m in arts funding.”

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY WOULD PROBABLY MATE WITH A DALEK, JUST SAYING.

Look, I love archaeology and I love paleontology just as much as the next guy… provided the next guy is actually and archaeologist, or paleontologist, or eight year old boy. But we can all agree that a whole lot of the art involves creating a narrative, and that involves what can best be scientifically termed as, well, you know…… guesswork.

Still beats being a teacher, though.

“We’ve yet to establish the reason for this long, quite flimsy horn, but we assume it was important for display during mating season.”

SAME THING WE ALWAYS DO, BRAIN…

All the Gods pass through here. The walls are thick with photos: Odin, back in the two-eyed days; Zoroaster poking two fingers up behind Zarathustra’s head; Kali with her arms around Mister Vitelli. A lot of Gods with Mister Vitelli. He might own the place, but you’ve never met a bigger starfucker in your life. And Mister Vitelli has lived several.


Four weeks ago, I started an online writing group — The Ministry of Reformation — with the brilliant Chuck McKenzie for the purposes of encouraging a group of writing friends who had fallen away from our regular habits (for whatever reason) to simply pick up our keyboards and hit a small, achievable target each week, to be the intervention we all needed just to sit us back in front of a screen and recover the words we all miss so mightily, no matter how few we capture at each sitting.


Declan pulled his jacket closer round his shoulders and kicked his way through the mud towards the pressing shed. The vines surrounding him were stunted and blackened by sleet. They wouldn’t bloom for countless months. Declan shivered. He’d lost track of time while he wandered aimlessly along the rows. He had no purpose, no drive. Nothing is as useless as a vintner in winter, he rhymed to himself, striking a rap-star pose and then sighing self-consciously. Time to head back to the homestead. Hot chocolate and a Jason Statham DVD, that was what he needed. The opposite of the thinking that threatened to drive him into an office job every time he stopped to contemplate what too many more weeks of this blight would do to his savings. He reached the end of the row of vines, and turned towards the small cottage tucked away at the back of the vineyard.

            “Hello,” he muttered.


In 4 weeks I’ve managed to complete Vitelli’s, a short story that’s sat unfinished for well over two years — that’s the first excerpt, up the top — and put 1500 words down on something that feels like it’s going to be a novel, but is definitely unlike anything I’ve ever attempted before. At the moment, it’s shaping up as a thriller very much in the LeCarre mould of retired bad-men-on-the-side-of-good being drawn back into games they thought they’d left behind. It’s called The Retiree for the minute, and that’s where the second excerpt above comes from.

I’ve no idea how well any of these projects are going to go; whether they’ll end up being remotely sellable; if I’m even capable of pretending to scale the tiny heights my writing career reached before everything fell apart. But I do know that I couldn’t go on as I was, blocked and miserable and depressed at the mundanity and featurelessness I had devolved into. So this group, as gentle and minimal as the targets we’ve created and the interventions we perform are, has become uncountably important to me over the last month.

If I can keep producing something, I can at least believe I can get back onto the treadmill, sell the odd story, perhaps a novel again, and lay the foundations of a second attempt at being something more than just a middle-aged nobody doing his five days a week while he waits for retirement and decline.

Second chances don’t travel in herds, and this is the best shot I’ve had at one for a while. It’s only four weeks, but the signs are good.

So it seems to be working for me, at least, is what I’m saying…


He hung up, finished his cold meal, paid, and left. As he swung out of the parking area he pulled up to a rubbish bin. He pulled the sim card out of his phone, snapped it in half, crushed the phone beneath his heel, and threw the whole mess into the bin. Then he drew the car onto the highway and drove away, keeping respectfully to the speed limit the whole time.


THUMBNAIL THURSDAY HAS A STUNNING WORK ETHIC

Okay, I remember exactly the scenario behind this one. Way back in the day, I worked for the Commonwealth Employment Service — the Government’s job search provider, before they privatised it and sent the whole system to utter shit. I was banished to a small job centre in Armadale, at the unpopular end of one of the train lines, to sit on the front counter and hopefully die as quietly as possible without making any sort of fuss.

Which I did. Online comics for 8 hours a day, spoiled only by the fewer than half a dozen poor jobless who hadn’t yet worked out that they’d get much better service, and many more jobs, if they went a stop or two up the line.

Nobody cared. Nobody noticed. And nobody in that particular office was under any illusion that they weren’t just marking time until the next thing came along. Which it duly did: the destruction of the CES, and reassignment to the absolute hellish landscape of the Child Support Agency, from which I never really recovered. But 8 hours a day of webcomics was pretty damn good 😉

Oh, and for those of you aged under thirty. That’s a computer monitor. That’s what shape they used to be. More or less.

“Damn. I always run out of comics before I run out of day.”

MIXED MOVIE QUOTE: MR. BROOKS.

Luscious and I are both sick at the moment (another post on that later today) so last night was resting, couch-surfing, and revisiting a comfort movie. We settled on one of our favourites, and a movie that is such an underrated little gem, Mr. Brooks, one of the very few movies in which I genuinely enjoy William Hurt and in which Kevin Costner gives arguably the first of his relaxed, subtle late career performances. It’s stuffed with fantastic acting turns, and even Danielle Panabaker — so utterly awful and unconvincing in the The Flash TV series — is given just enough to do to turn her limited range into an asset. Hell, any movie that makes you want to see more of Dane Cook should be counted as a miracle equivalent to a Mechanical Turk or roc egg!

It’s a joy.

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY SAYS POACH THE POACHERS. AND MY EGGS.

There’s a very simple solution to stopping big game hunters, you know.

Put a bounty on them.

Money for villagers who might otherwise be tempted by fees to act as guides, limiting access to local knowledge and preserving the natural heritage, skills, and financial independence of the indigenous population. Plus, how many smug white dentist’s heads from middle America mounted on hotel walls do you think it would take before the whole industry just withered away and died?

Exactly.

You’re welcome.

“If I’d known it was harmless, I’d have killed it myself.”

BABY STEPS. NEW STEPS. WRITING STEPS.

Three weeks ago, as part of my determination to make what might be, perhaps, one last attempt to take the sputtering embers of my writing career and see if I can fan them enough to light at least one match head, my good friend Chuck McKenzie and I invited a few colleagues — all of whom were in a similar situation, and had spoken of a similar mind-frame — to create an online group dedicated to supporting each other as we tried to reignite what we all once had, and at least occasionally enjoyed.

After some discussion around format, and desires, and structure, we set our first writing target this week. Very small, very simple, real ‘hurdles for baby bunny rabbits’ stuff: 100 words, or half an hour cumulative writing time.

It’s easier to aim low, and surpass, than aim high, and not even try.

So this morning, gifted with a third consecutive sick day (thanks, inflamed lung!), I finally sat down to try my first writing session since determining to do so at the start of the year (Turns out new jobs and house moves are time-consuming. Who knew?). I dusted off Vitelli’s, a short story I’d churned out a couple of thousand words on the last time I tried to restart things, and which fell apart before I could finish it and even contemplate what came next.

Today, armed with the knowledge that I had to get at least 100 words down, or front up to the writing group I started and explain why I couldn’t manage the first, smallest target I set, I managed 800 words and brought a long-dormant short story from somewhere in the midst to just about finished.

That, my friends, is a good feeling.

Baby steps.

First steps.

But oh, they do feel nice.

MIXED MOVIE QUOTES LOVE NEW YORK IN JUNE. HOW ABOUT YOU?

Almost completely moved into the new house, and two weeks into fresh battles at my new school, so of course I’m going to fall over with an inflamed lung and have to spend the better part of a week doing sod all on doctor’s orders, just as the neighbours and fellow teaching staff were really learning not to bother with me.

Lord 17 is also home today with a cough to rival Captain Coughy McCougherson — we’ve really got to stop huffing off the same crack pipe — so it was a glorious chance to introduce him to a movie that is, well, simply one of the most wonderful pieces of celluloid I’ve ever watched: one of Terry Gilliam’s several masterpieces, The Fisher King.

There are some lines, no matter how brilliant or otherwise a movie may be, that simply transcend the material and slice your heart straight open.

The Good Place’s “Picture a wave…” speech makes my eyes flood every time.

“We are Groot.”

“I don’t understand. Who is this child?”

Hell, I know people who tear up over the “I love you”…… “I know” exchange in The Empire Strikes Back.

It takes all sorts, and I guarantee you, unless you are a soulless monster of incalculable stone density, or a Steven Seagal fan, you have your own Shut up, you’re crying! favourites as well.

Which brings me back to The Fisher King, and because I haven’t seen it in a bunch of years, this line, which goes straight into that list of lines that make me cry like a six year old with half a cone of ice-cream on the ground.

Naturally, as a defence mechanism, I have to undermine the living shit out of it. Naturally.



THUMBNAIL THURSDAY PEGS DEATH ON SPECIAL OCCASIONS

One of those inviolate rules of comedy: death is funny, dying is pain.

Death is doubly funny when you anthropomorphise it and give it a range of normal human habits. Like marrying, and dinking cocktails. To whit: ta-daaaaaaa.

“You’d think that, but he’s actually quite a warm and gentle lover.”

Bonus points for anyone willing to share what they actually do think about Death’s performance as a sexual partner……

INFIL DAY

It’s been a short while since any meaningful content, but perhaps this picture may serve as a form of explanation as to why.

Weeks of short-term accommodation homelessness have been navigated. Home is achieved. Today, the box fort arrives…

JUST BECAUSE A MIXED MOVIE QUOTE IS RICH, DOESN’T MEAN IT CAN’T BE TRASHY

House of Gucci is thoroughly enjoyable. By turns trashy, high camp, and deadly serious, it disguises the diminishing of Ridley Scott’s directorial powers by the sheer power of the performances*: Adam Driver and Lady Gaga are stunningly good, Al Pacino revels in remembering how to adjust his volume knob, and even Jared Leto’s hammy pretensions are framed perfectly to allow us to disdain a character that deserves our disdain.

So, in the interests of maintaining that heady mix of po-faced trashiness that makes it so enjoyable, a Mixed Movie Quote that aims for the same territory.


*The only possible exception to this is Jeremy Irons, who — while actually delivering a solid performance — seems determined to ignore everything bar the chance to turn into James Mason once again……

AGENT: In this role, you’ll be playing a German.
IRONS: (English accent)
AGENT: This one’s an American who styles himself after an Ancient Greek.
IRONS: (English accent)
AGENT: (Reading House of Gucci offer) Italian?
IRONS: (ENGLISH! ACCENT!)