Tuesday, November 22

Rainbows and smileys and some bad writing.

I ordered business cards from Moo (to be fair, they're baby mini business cards) and as I was browsing through the designs available, my first thought was 'do they have Hello Kitty ones'? Now, you might think nobody who wants Hello Kitty business cards should be allowed to have business cards at all. They should be given printer paper and crayons and sat on a tiny plastic chair. That's what I think, anyway. Maybe it's a symptom of the chronic childishness my generation is trapped in – but screw it. I'm a writer. I'm artsy. I'm whimsical. All the smart, pastel designs seemed boring. I'm a special snowflake, goddamnit.

So I got rainbow business cards. They'll be delivered around Christmas. I'm psyched.

Now, I'm aware that I keep calling myself a writer but please let's not get our wires crossed – this self-imposed label is not some sort of delusional, narcissistic thing. It's an affirmation which I know for a fact is currently false (with the definition of a writer being someone who writes and gets paid and knows how grammar works – see extract below for evidence to the contrary), but which will hopefully become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you're not esoterically-minded, humour me and pretend that an affirmation and a lie are separate things.

I also did something sorta crazy the other day. I've been reading No Country For Old Men and while I'm not mad about the plot, Cormac McCarthy's style just blows me away. When I was still labouring under the delusion that I could mentally handle two years of Masters, I wanted to focus on Cormac McCarthy's novels for my thesis – because The Road is probably my favourite novel of all time. And he's too cool for quotation marks.

So while working on Project: Not A Fanfic, I wrote a whole chapter in a weak impression of McCarthy's style. It turned out to be rather spectacularly bad. Have an extract:

She stood and went outside. It was dark and it had just rained and there were strong winds knotting her hair and raising goosebumps on her skin. The air smelled wet and fresh. The rustle of the wind chewed on the edges of her mind and she pictured a thousand enemies waiting beyond the edge of the darkness for her, breaking twigs and shifting restlessly in the distance waiting impatiently for her to come within reach, within swiping distance.

She shivered, looked at the moon, and went back inside. He asked her what she'd been doing outside. Fresh air, she said. She looked to the ground so he wouldn't see her pupils had become tiny pinpricks in her muddy green eyes.

He said he was going out and that she should have a hole dug by the time he got back. She said how big. He said about six foot long and six deep. It should be easy in this mud.

If she had been sober her stomach would have dropped and her skin would have grown to match the green of her eyes but none of that happened. She nodded and made herself and him a cup of coffee. Most of the time even when he said he wanted coffee he wouldn't drink it. His cup stayed full and a thin brown ring started to stain the cup around the edge where the coffee ended. He packed up his things, real organised, and left. She listened to his truck start and chug dead and start again. She looked at the cup he left behind and downed the lukewarm instant coffee that had a sludge of sugar at the bottom. He hadn't even stirred it. 

She tied up her hair in a knotty tail then twisted the tail around into a messy bun that would stay off her neck as she sweated. He kept the shovels in the shed which he kept locked because some of the tools had blood on them and no point letting people wander in there. Although he liked things clean some stains were sentimental.

I doubt this chapter will survive revisions, but it was fun to write.

Project: Not A Fanfic is going well, by the way. I'm on schedule in terms of word count (37,086 words as of this evening), and just yesterday I tackled a massive action scene I've been putting off since day one. Anyone who knows me knows I consider it a feat of strength to walk and talk at the same time, so my co-ordination and spatial reasoning skills aren't quite at action-adventure levels. Luckily the good folks in my story have guns* so they don't have any messy, confusing, multi-limbed hand-to-hand combat for me to grapple with.

One of my characters gave me a pleasant surprise too Рwhile I thought she was relentlessly blas̩ and well-adjusted, turns out she's been faking it. I'm thrilled, because she's more real and relatable now. She was bordering on Mary Sue-ish before. Although I realise how problematic it is that when a male character is perfect it's heroic, and when a female character is perfect it's unrealistic.

Like any adult with rainbow business cards, I use smiley stickers to motivate myself.

My new favourite quote and motto for NaNo.

Luckily, perfect people are boring and I won't tolerate them in my stories. Right now every character in Project: Not A Fanfic is so damaged I'm surprised they get anything done. Hell, I don't even expect much from them, I'm just hoping the poor bastards manage to get to the end of the book without turning into a suicide cult. 

*I dislike guns and I don't really understand them. If it were up to me, my characters would shoot jelly babies from slingshots at the bad guys. But since the bad guys don't care how I feel, and have guns with bullets, I fear this could put my team at an unfair disadvantage.

Monday, November 14

On money and the lack of it.

All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy.
- Spike Milligan

When I was about eight, my sister and I opened up a bunch of cool, shiny batman figurines in the toy aisle of the Shoprite. With our boundless stealth and cunning minds, we assumed that Batman, Robin and Catwoman could have a quick adventure, and nobody would be the wiser. An assistant found us, obviously. My mom had to pay for the toys, obviously. And they were what, R50, maybe R60 each? Big money. She took our pocket money away, and a measly R10 a week would go towards the toys until they were paid off.

In the long run, my mom made a profit out of that embarrassing day, because she never restored our pocket money. It's been fifteen years, and I'm still paying off that bloody Robin.

Here's the thing about money.

People who have it don't think it's a big deal.

I kinda hate those people. And I kinda am one of those people.

My formative years (do people still say that?) I didn't have a lot of money. My dad loved casinos more than he loved our house, and he ended up trading the latter for the former. My mom worked at a deli and then as a taxi driver to keep the family afloat. I can't remember a time when she wasn't exhausted from work. We moved a few times before landlords could kick us out for not paying rent. My clothes were faded, exuberant numbers from family friends who'd clean out their wardrobes and think of poor Janet's girls.

While I saw myself as poor, I didn't have much angst about it. It wasn't a reflection on me that the adults in my life were selfish or mathematically challenged or whatever, right? And why would I want to go on school trips to Warmbaths anyway? I had my carefully curated collection of Pokemon tazos, and while I wasn't happy, I didn't let myself get miserable by entertaining the hope that I'd ever have anything more.

But things started to take a turn when I was about sixteen and my mom took a risk and opened up her own business: selling replica oil paintings at a stall at the local market. I helped out every weekend and things were painfully slow at first. We didn't have a single sale for almost four months. We'd be on our feet, showing people paintings, hope lifting the corners of our mouths while defeat dragged our shoulders down.

But one day, a nice blonde woman bought a Mediterranean scene and paid with a cheque that, to my astonishment, cleared. Money started trickling in, so slowly that I didn't realise we had any until we moved to a bigger flat in a nicer area two years later.

My sister, through sheer irrational willpower, had gotten herself through a year of university before it was time for me to apply. I told people I wanted to study publishing, because being a writer was far too foolish an ambition. Anyone can write, what made me think anyone would want to pay me to do it?

University changed my life because it changed my perceptions. Suddenly I was surrounded by people who didn't worry about money – they didn't even think about it. They had new cars and shopped in Sandton and didn't even know how much their course fees were. They had cards to pay for a R50 salad from the cafe every day. One of my first weeks there, I had a conversation with a guy who said he liked to travel, so I asked where he'd been. “Brazil, England, Greece, New York,” he began - I specifically remember my eyes widening at this point, so much so that I daren't remind him that New York wasn't a country. He was surprised at my surprise and even more surprised when I asked him how he managed it. “Well, just family holidays and stuff, you know...” he said edgily, as if I'd take all his travel away from him if he didn't justify it.

I had plenty of moments like that – accidentally making rich people feel uncomfortable by making them feel rich. Of course, making people feel uncomfortable is one of my undeniable talents, but I think I've gotten better at this particular strain of awkwardness. For instance, I no longer respond to people moaning about Paris being so crowded in the spring by sunnily saying, “I wish I had your problems.”

Though my mother's business was paying rent, I was reliant mostly upon my dad's sporadic support when it came to paying fees. For three years my stomach twisted every month's end, knowing that this will be the month that the money doesn't come together, this will be the month that they'll kick me out because I'm a fraud and these clothes belong to my mother's best friend who brought them over to our house in a big plastic bag.

But I made it through – call it luck or the law of attraction or a small financial miracle, but I got my degree. And after that, I got a year's Merit Award to carry on and do Honours, which I did simply because you don't turn down free stuff. Education doesn't grow on trees.

But the problem is that once I'd gotten out of university and out of the cast-iron socially acceptable excuse of having no money because I'm living 'the student life' (although I never abused alcohol on a regular enough basis to be worthy of that title) I've finally come to a conclusion.

I want to be rich, damn it.

There, I said it. The depressing thing is that I don't just want to be rich now, I want to be rich five years ago. I've seen life on the other side. I want to be rich five years ago, so that I didn't have to spend my weekends at the bloody market holding up paintings and grinning like a maniac, so I could drive to house parties on the other side of the world in my own car, so I could go to fests where everyone walks around in flip flops and sleeps in tents and pretend to be poor for a long-weekend. And most importantly, I want to be rich five years ago so I could take all that stuff for granted.

The truth is, I'm sorta rich now – well, the teenage me would've thought that I'm loaded. I have a whole R500 in my bank account – do you have any idea how many chip packets with the tazo-strip that'd buy? I 'work' one or two days a week (still at that selfsame hell market) and don't have income the rest of the time, and yet a roof magically stays over my head and the good pickles are still stocked high in the cupboards. I spend my days writing, pushing, straining to get something of decent quality out of the hormone-soaked creative cesspool of my mind. I've written over twenty-thousand words this month, and all but eight of them are ugly.

I'm living a borderline-moneyless existence, while almost everyone I spent four years studying with are driving their lovely cars to work in posh buildings, or overseas traveling or studying or suffering the crowds of Paris.

And while I know it's only temporary, that maybe one day my words will be pretty enough to sell, I can't help but feel like I'm still paying off that bloody Robin.

Saturday, November 12

Here's the thing about Misha Collins...

Let's have a disclaimer first: I haven't been in the real world in a long time. So over the past year or so, my fangirl tendencies have sort of, um, intensified. It's not dangerous or creepy or anything – I mean, I don't know exactly where Benedict Cumberbatch lives. But it's not for lack of googling.

I haven't really mentioned Benedict or any other recent boyfriends obsessions because this blog is supposed to have some measure of – I don't know – self-respect? Shame? Um, no, that can't be it. I think because I just hate reading uncritical, unchecked squee and I can't bear publishing it under my own name (and Anonymous Has A Blog! didn't have the same ring to it.)

So here is my first entry of Checked Squee*. I really like this term because it sounds like a small fowl that rich people eat. Go on, doesn't 'Checked Squee and Plums on Wild Rice' sound like a recipe for a pretentious main course? It does? Good. I love writing, you can't hear the people who disagree with you.

So here's the thing about Misha Collins...

We could just leave this here.

I started watching Supernatural because of him. He plays the angel Castiel, which is a pretty name so I'm already on his side. I'm superficial like that.

He appears in the fourth season, looking like a disheveled office worker with his hair a little mussed and his tie a little loose, as if he's just finished fucking a secretary over his lunch break. Rawr. He also appears with terribly dry lips for reasons best known to the stingy make-up crew. I assume it's in their contract that only series regulars get complimentary lip balm – or maybe the catering on set only has low-cal sand and dust to keep anyone from looking bloated. We may never know. The point is, he shows up and it's good. (Just to be clear, Castiel is an angel, but like a BAMF** angel.)

Part of Misha Collins' appeal in Supernatural is that he’s a great contrast to the two stars. Jared Padalecki (Sam) just a cutie – he has these puppy-dog eyes and these dimples and this overall sweetness about him. I bet he'd hold his girlfriend's hand during The Notebook instead of rolling his eyes and asking what else is on. Jensen Ackles (Dean), try as he might to deepen his voice and square his shoulders, is goddamn beautiful. This is a guy who could have had a long and happy career in soaps because he's pretty like a girl. Frankly, I don't know how he gets anything done, because if I looked like that I'd spend all my time licking my own reflection.

And then you have Misha Collins: handsome but not overgroomed, serious, with this deep smoky voice and a strong soldier vibe. The character of Castiel is also well crafted and perfectly suited for Misha – he has a wicked sense of humour and really shines when Castiel is unintentionally hilarious. This video won't let me embed *shakes fist at the sky* but here's a great moment: Cas runs out of minutes.

Castiel also has fangirl appeal because he's mysterious – his appearances brief and unexpected, his message important and his morality ambiguous. Nobody screeches the car to a halt and demands to know how Cas feels inside. He's refreshingly stoic and his appearances bring a lot of gravity to a story otherwise skipping towards the apocalypse. (I'm talking about seasons 4 and 5 here, because in my mind seasons 6 and 7 are pretty much a big-budget fanfic.)

So maybe I got a little into Misha Collins. That's fine, perfectly manageable, and usually sorted by  the youtube cure – watching a few interviews with the actor in question. 

The thing about actors is that they're usually so disappointingly ordinary, and while you might enjoy watching them pretending to be fascinating characters, it's easy to cancel your plans to marry them once you see them umming and awing through a Q&A panel or a red carpet question-assault (I hate red carpet interviews – I don't like seeing anyone feeling rushed and overdressed.) Past actors I've stalked liked include Jim Parsons (Sheldon from Big Bang Theory) and Zachary Quinto (Sylar from Heroes) (shut up, I know they're both gay, but I can change them with my love***) and the youtube cure worked quite well for both. Jim Parsons, bless him, is so easily flustered and distracted that it's quite painful to watch him being himself. Zachary Quinto takes himself a bit too seriously and dresses badly. He's also made several Funny Or Die videos, most of which fall into the Die category.

I might mention Benedict Cumberbatch here, but a) I'm still not over him even though he's cheating on me, and b) he is so special and British and delightful, he's going to get his own entry soon.

So I looked up Misha Collins, and guys, the youtube cure didn't work. It just made everything a million times worse. This guy is – see, if this were unchecked squee I'd say things like 'amazing', 'epic' and 'extraordinary'. But since my blog is all critical and snarky and pseudo-intellectual, I'm going to say he's nuts. Media people keep calling him 'eccentric' and the term 'Misha being Misha' is a fandom tag – and when the fandom is lost for words you know you've got something special. But I'll try to put a finger on why I can't get him out of my head: he's funny and smart and witty and random and completely self-assured and basically everything you want in a boyfriend.

My obsession snowballed from youtube. How is this guy not A-list when he's got leading-man looks and can string a sentence together and not bump into the furniture? Ah, here's the critical part of this entry. I'm not going to say 'because Hollywood is unfair MISHA FOR PRESIDENT' because, come on.

Part of the answer might be that it's easy to make him break – there are so many stories of the cast and crew, especially Jared Padalecki, (whom the youtube cure did work on because he seems to me like a bit of a douchebag now) pranking Misha, resulting in dozens of ruined takes. So maybe cruel, heartless sabotage has followed Misha throughout his career? 

Then again, it could just be that he makes poor decisions. I recently watched Divine: The Series which he stars in and helped create. And while I approve of the Misha Collins as a priest kink role, the rest of the series was fairly rubbish. In fact, it was so rubbish that I couldn't summarise the horror in a few sentences, so you can look forward to a terribly unkind review of it in the near future. Oddly enough most people think Divine is alright, so maybe that's just me with my troublesome critical thinking.

More things about Misha Collins... he's smart. Like, went-to-college, had-jobs-where-nobody-told-him-what-to-say smart. He goes to Tibet or someplace for ten days every year to meditate. Enlightenment is hot. He built his house and most of the furniture in it himself. He's a carpenter. LIKE JESUS. And he plays an angel? That can't just be a coincidence.

No seriously, I want my money back on the youtube cure. Part of its purpose is to cancel out the scary fangirl trains of thought that involve moving to LA and advertising to be a dogwalker in your beloved's neighbourhood on the off chance they might pick up a flyer and say “Dasia... hmm, that sounds like the potential name of my future wife. I think I'll give her a call.” More often than not, that train's derailed successfully when I confirm that my beloved is a cock enthusiast whom I probably can't change with my love.

In Misha Collins' case, he's married, with a kid. Aw, that's nice. Wouldn't want to break up a family with my feminine wiles and mad dogwalking skills****, would I? Of course not. What's his wife like? She's a psychologist. She looks smart. They must be happy. Oh, she wrote a book.

Lord, give me strength. How am I supposed to get over this guy when I know that he and his smart wife regularly invite guest stars into their bed? Excuse me while I book a stow-away spot on a fishing boat to LA.

Oh, um, looks like I’ve let the squee out of its pen and now it’s running around unchecked. Something negative, something critical… well, for one thing I imagine that like anyone smart and witty, Misha Collins can really be a bitch when he wants to be. But that’s purely conjecture, seeing as googling “Misha Collins being a bitch” didn’t yield any relevant results – in fact, the very first entry that came up was titled ‘Misha Collins is a sexy bitch.’

Damn right he is.

*Make sure to stress the 'ed' : checkED squee. Now say it five times fast.
**For a long time I thought this acronym was in the MILF family, and sprained some creative muscles trying to figure out what it meant... BAMF... big... ass... must... f-?! No. It stands for BadAss MotherFluffer.
***I know I can't. Shut up.
****My skills are mad, not that I can walk mad dogs. Which I can't. Or regular dogs. Any proclamations of mad dogwalking skills are false.

NOTE: This entry includes 2 pictures that aren't copyrighted to me. I found both via google - one on blogspot, the other on tumblr, and credit wasn't stated in either 'original' location. I'd love to credit, so if you have original credits, please let me know! And Misha, if you're reading this, fuck off, no you're not.


Hey there, blog wanderer!

Thanks for visiting, but if you're looking for something a little fresher, go visit my new site ThatDasia.com.

Here you'll find my YouTube videos, new blog posts, reviews, social media insights and even my freelance offerings.

See you there!

Thursday, November 10

Project: Not A Fanfic

So last night I had a dream about this amazing novelling software that helped with planning, note taking, quote collecting, and making high-waisted Guess jeans fit. Just a fun fact that has nothing to do with the rest of this entry.

Well I guess it does, in a way, as it concerns novelling (novelizing? noveltry? novel-mongering?) I figure since I keep declaring myself a writer, I want to somehow back that up by talking about the stuff I'm working on. (You can tell by the elegant structure of that last sentence that my Pulitzer is in the post.)

I have two big projects on at the moment, which will hopefully both grow up to be novels. The first is an idea I had about eight years ago and have been afraid of tackling since – let's call it Project: Stone Cold Bummer (30 Rock reference!) because not only does it involve elements of genocide and the moral bankruptcy of wealth and feral children, it's also forced me to do a lot of research into factory farming and modern agriculture, which believe me is a stone cold bummer in itself. If you don't believe me, just google ‘factory farming’ and you'll see why I'm thoroughly depressed about the world. And then google ‘do a barrel roll' to cheer yourself up.

But anyway, the second project that's alive and kicking right now is my NaNoWriMo attempt, and perhaps the kindest name for it would be Project: Not A Fanfic (I like the colon in my project names - it has a Mission: Impossible feel.) I've attempted NaNo two or three times before, but always faded away because I never actually planned much beyond “I'm just going to keep writing until I get hungry.” But this year, I made notes. Hell, I even have an ending! And a beginning! The middle, though, is a slightly different story... or rather, a lack of one.

Notes! What is it about a new black pen on fresh white paper that gets me all tingly?

There's just the tiny matter of this blank page.

As for the (incredibly kind though not highly accurate) name of Project: Not A Fanfic... you see, I've been watching Supernatural quite a lot lately (soon we'll have a whole blog entry devoted to the deranged excellence that is Misha Collins) and it's possible that a few elements of the story are shamelessly stolen from inspired by the Supernatural franchise. 

It's not a big deal, so maybe I'm referencing tiny insignificant things like a character (or three) and maybe the overarching plot or even a forbidden angel-human gay love story - but come on, what adventure fantasy doesn't include that these days? It's practically a given! (Like hobbit-wizard relations with homoerotic undertones. Or lightning-shaped scars that hurt when one is near a bad guy who killed one's parents.) I'm critically addressing the tropes of the genre! It's not copyright infringement if you're consciously troping, right? Right!

So Project: Not A Fanfic is roughly a quarter through its first draft, and it's been a bit of a mission to pull out of my brain (or out of the ether? Let's pretend my brain isn't made of ether) and get onto paper. I think part of the problem is that the devil-monkey on my shoulder – the same thing that tells me it's okay to have that third cup of ice cream or stay up past 2am watching Comic-Con panels on youtube – realised early on that I was serious about this project. Some people's devil-monkeys organise flat tyres, friends who call crying in the middle of the night, and computer viruses (*spits three times* *crosses self* *gives the monkey ice cream*) to keep them distracted from the work at hand. My monkey lacks this sort of initiative and creativity – it just makes me stare blankly at the screen, mind soaked in self-doubt, and convinces me to take a break every thirty seconds for either coffee or the bathroom (one habit tends to enable the other.)

So this project is alive largely due to the glory of the productivity steroids woven into Dr Wicked's Write Or Die. The web app is free and quite useful, but I highly recommend giving this god among men ten bucks for the desktop version. It's great because you can customize how harsh you want 'punishments' to be (I'm sensitive and easily spooked, so the screen going red is quite enough for me without the soul-shattering sound effects) and you can customize a bunch of other stuff too. It really is a lifesaver if you've got to write a first draft in a hurry and / or you suffer from devil-monkeys.

In case anyone cares, my devil-monkey looks roughly the same as the Chicken Licken orangutan, but mine wears those kitsch little light-up devil horns you find in every Cardies on Halloween.

Is it bad that this is one of my favourite ads ever? I love the music and the puppetry and the fact that this guy looks more like a strung-out junkie than a fried chicken enthusiast. But I can't think about those hot-wings without feeling a little sick. I won approximately a metric tonne of them once... let's just say the devil-monkey made sure they didn't last long.

Editor's Note: Sorry about the impossible amount of ellipses and brackets in this entry. I'm definitely in first draft mode... (and ellipses... will always be a bad habit... from my fanfic days... don't they just... imply so many... impossible.... to... articulate... feelings...?!?!)

Tuesday, November 8

On Feeling Funny

So I haven't updated in a while because whenever I think of this neglected little blog I think to myself, "But I just don't feel funny today."
Which is dumb, because
  • I'm not even that funny on days that I do feel funny.
  • this blog started out being about everything, not just desperately trying to amuse the vast, uncaring gaze (gays!) of the internet.
  • nobody reads this except a few kind friends and my sister, so what does it even matter what I write about?
What I was aiming for in the beginning was some semi-professional, semi-regular writing practice devoid of angst and unchecked squee. So when somebody from the real world asked if I had much writing experience, I could casually say "Well, I have a blog," and give them my business card ( haha! ...Sorry, I really must learn to say that with a straight face) and not be embarrassed by the idea that they might actually go to my blog and read it.

Should I get business cards? I feel like people who spend most days at home in their Hello Kitty pyjamas don't deserve business cards.

Maybe I should get business cards. It's been quite difficult to see myself as a professional writer, probably because apart from my three weeks at the Copywriting Job From Hell, I've never been paid to write anything. Even though I've made R68.86 from people clicking ads on this blog since January 2010! So that's almost R3 a month. *smugface*

Maybe I should just kill this blog? All my favourite bloggers are the ones who can't wait to post, and are usually accomplished illustrators or photographers with, you know, actual stuff to talk about. I have to force myself to post once a season.

But if I do kill it, what would I put on my Hello Kitty business cards?

*contemplative face*

ETA: After an impulsive (and slightly attention-whorey) facebook poll about what I should do with my blog, I've decided to carry on with it. Even people I didn't think cared at all have said they enjoy it, so I may as well try for a revival! Excuse me while I commission Hello Kitty business cards from my incredibly talented graphic designer sister.

Thanks to everyone for your support.  :)