Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vampires Are Mostly Dead. And They Eat Blood.

You know what? I'm tired of 'sexy vampires'. Really. The whole goddam meme stems from Bram Stoker's Victorian-era morals; his obsession with sex, and his vision of vampirism as a metaphor for syphilis and similar STDs. And of course, as the 20th century faded into a miasma of recursive, self-cannibalising pop culture, death itself got sexualised and vampires became the symbol of sexy death.

And it is boring me shitless. Really.

'Twilight' is dreadful pap. And the Sookie Stackhouse stuff that's now become 'True Blood' on TV? Eh: I read one of the books, and I seriously wish I had that two hours of my life back. Abysmal. Cardboard. Crap.

This stuff was shite when Buffy was swooning about over unobtainable tall-dark-and-fangsome sorts, but at least it came with half-interesting dialogue. It was turgid, over-written tripe when Anne Rice first interviewed some tosser in an old suit down in New Orleans - and folks? That was published in nineteen fucking seventy-six. Get. Over. It.

It's a dumbing down, a simplification -- a stripping away of depth and dimensions leaving only surface. What started out as a literary metaphor with at least a half-measure of subtlety has become a flat, day-glow icon with all the interest and all the intrigue of a 'no smoking' sign. It's friggin' boring... and it's wayyyyy over-ripe for satire and parody.

So where's my "Not Another Sexy Vampire Movie?" How come nobody's done the Joke Vampire Film yet? I mean a real one, not the half-assed version with perpetual fake tan tragic George Hamilton zipped into Count Dracula's inevitable tuxedo. 'Love At First Bite' had moments of fun, but not enough of 'em. There's much more to be had.

Here's my concept:

Jack Black stars in "Fangs", a movie about a fat, angry, anti-social, sexually deprived smart-mouthed loser who courts attention from an uber-smoothie vampire so he can get 'turned' and finally, finally become the babe magnet he's always secretly known himself to be.

Naturally, since this is a Hollywood comedy, Count Jack will meet and woo the babe of his dreams, but not with his newfound vampiric abilities - no, she will (of course) be charmed by his wit and courage, and by the sensitive, caring man hidden beneath his unlovable exterior (which he gains the confidence to show because he knows he's now that most irresistable of sex machines, a vampire.) And of course, she's not aware he's become a vampire. In fact, she's probably a deadly vampire hunter, so he not only has to conceal his identity from her, but he has to figure out how to regain his humanity before she twigs and he becomes stake-fodder.

In the meantime, of course, we get all the right moments of fun: newly transformed Jack Black putting on his tux and cloak for the first time, trying to check himself out in the mirror... damn! Messing with his new vampire powers: using that hyper-lunatic Jack Black stare to 'hypnotise' the doorman at the trendy nightclub that always used to turn him away. Then plying his smoothie routine on the babes, except that he's only half-shaved, his hair is sticking out weirdly, and his bow tie is completely fucked up 'cause he couldn't see his own reflection.

Of course when he finally does pull his first vamp-whore, he discovers she's all "no sex until the biting happens", and he's not really sure about that biting thing. Montage: multiple attempts to chomp her neck, with different versions of Fail every time... until he finally manages to bite down, and she screams in pain and tells him angrily that he's got to extrude his goddam fangs first, jackass...

So he drinks her blood, which upsets his stomach, but at last, when he gets back from the bathroom, there she is: all dazed from blood-loss, in fetching deshabille, bleeding gently on the satin sheets of his carefully prepared vamp love-nest... and of course, Count Jack discovers that vampires can't actually get a goddam erection because they're mostly fucking dead, and they don't have a heartbeat with which to pump blood into their dicks.

And it's all downhill from there. You can see where it goes: Black realises that if he can kill his mentor-vamp before the legendary three days post-bite have expired, he can go back to being human. So he contacts the vampire killers, and meets the uber-babe, and has to go the Big Lie, explaining that he really wants this vampire dead because it killed his whole family. Including his dog.

Meanwhile, to keep up appearances he uses fake tan (turns violent orange) and wears lots of sunscreen. He takes all kinds of increasingly complicated measures to try and shave -- think multiple webcams and computer screens... he discover's he's too damned fat to sleep in the coffin he bought... the blood craving gets to be too much and he finally snacks on a derelict, and winds up hilariously drunk as a result... more hilarity when he goes to the toilet and pisses blood for the first time... taking the advice of another vampire and updating his wardrobe...

...actually, that last one is worth a few scenes in its own right. The tux simply isn't his 'vampire look', so he tries to go shopping for clothes, but can't cross doorways until he's invited. Eventually he gets turned onto a specialist vamp boutique, but since he's not a 'smoothie', the staff take the piss out of him and he winds up dressed like some kind of vampire pimp...

... a moment in which he gets exposed to the sun, burns and smokes, and screams "Jesus, shit, when does the sparkling thing happen?"

... a moment when an entire cluster of smoothie vamps are revealed to be the gayest of gay, stereotypical fag-types who talk about hair product and clothes and interior design, and do each other's shaving... maybe one of them shaves Count Jack in an incredibly, uncomfortably home-erotic bondage routine?

And of course, through the whole film we get Jack Black doing his finest 'Bela Lugosi As Ladykiller' impression. Complete with bad Transylvanian accent every time he exerts his vampiric powers. (He can't help it. He's seen the movie too many times.)

The end? In the inevitable showdown with his mentor, Count Jack is forced into a decision when the mentor-vamp takes the love interest hostage. Count Jack can save her, but it means he'll miss the deadline and he'll lose his humanity permanently. Of course he chooses to save the girl, and of course she recovers at the vital instant, and between the two of them they manage to kill the Big Bad Vampire, restore Count Jack to mere Jack... and then all we have is the coda in which newly-rehumanized Jack thinks he doesn't stand a chance with the uber-babe now that he no longer has his supervampire sexiness - but of course she shows him what the audience already knows: that it's his inner man she's in love with, blah blah blah...

Ugh. Why do I do this to myself?

Because it's so horribly obvious. And because somebody ought to do it. And I suppose that now, if somebody actually does, I can point to this blog post and jump up and down until they cut me in on the profits. Or something.

But mostly because all of you, now -- each and every one of you -- is permanently stuck with a vision of Jack Black, half-shaved, in a tuxedo and cloak, trying to put the vampire moves on a series of uninterested babes. And if I have to have that kind of image in my head, so do you!

Anyway. It's better than still more goddam sparkly Twilight bullshit.


Is there a job worse than fencing? In the entire panoply of peculiarly rural time-sinks, is there another task so flat-out irritating and painful as putting up a fence?

I don't imagine so. Putting up even the crappiest sort of fence calls for a truly stupid array of tools and gear. And rather a lot of that gear is cantankerous beyond belief. Fencing wire, for example: I swear that shit is sentient, and stone cold vicious. You clip off a couple metres of the stuff, you absolutely better be dead-cert prepared for two things. First, the piece you clip off is going to recoil suddenly and dramatically, and the now-sharp end is going to lunge for the softest, most vulnerable part of your anatomy it can find. Second, the remaining coil of wire is also going to adjust itself drastically, and either take its own shot at your eyes (groin, shin, hand, lip, ear... whatever it can see) or just hurl itself to the ground in a tangle of truly Gordian complexity.

And that's just the wire. Don't forget all the other shit: pickets and droppers and anchors and clips and strainers and staples and cutters and drivers and hammers and spades and fence-post diggers and... hell with it. Sure, you usually don't need the whole goddam shebang for one fence, but even the simplest piece of fencing requires a disturbingly large list of crap.

Why am I whining about fencing right now? Because my goddam head still hurts, is why. Yesterday I went out to sink the last couple of star pickets for the strawberry patch -- having already put in the six by three-metre upright treated pine posts which will hold the overhead netting, of course.

D'you know how you sink a star picket? (If you haven't got a you-beaut multi-thousand-dollar hi-tech usually-goddam-broken attachment for your megatractor, that is. Which I don't.) You use a bit of very heavy steel piping. One end is open. The other is capped with a heavy plate welded in place. Two heavy, welded handles grace the sides of the thing. You stick your star picket pointy-end into the ground. Then you slide your picket-driver over the top until the welded plate hits the flat end of the star picket.

Then, using a hell of a lot of strength and force, you lift the picket driver so it slides back up the picket, and you slam it back down again. A lot. Repeatedly. Until by main force, you drive the bastard into the ground to the depth you desire.

Those of you thinking 'why doesn't he just use a sledge?' are desperately inexperienced in the ways of Star Picket Evil. Suffice it to say that if you are foolish enough to attempt the Sledge Hammer approach, you're likely to kill yourself, the hammer, or the picket -- or even all three at once, plus a couple of bystanders, if you get enough English on the picket when it springs out of the ground under the combined influence of a misaligned hammerblow and an unexpected rock buried in the earth...

Anyway, it wasn't a particularly big job. This is a six by three enclosure. I'm using six treated pine poles as mentioned before to lift the netting, and I put a star picket into the gap between each of the two poles, ensuring that the fence will be supported every one and a half metres. Sturdy, and easy to maintain.

It was late afternoon. I was tired. My attention wandered. I mean... for fuck's sake, how much concentration can one bring to bear when banging one stupid chunk of metal down on another? Duh. Duh. Duh. Dang dang dang dang dang... the noise is goddam deafening, yeah. Jeez, I wonder if I've got enough wonton wrappers? I got a bit of extra pork mince so I could --


And that, my friends, was my response when the picket-driver rebounded just a little bit high, and instead of coming straight down on the picket, the bottom edge of the driver hung up on the top of the picket... and that heavy chunk of steel pipe promptly fell straight forward and cracked itself onto the top of my forehead.

I must have come very close to splitting my scalp outright. Certainly the top layer of skin got bashed and stripped away, but I didn't bleed much at all, which is a wonder. Scalp wounds are major bleeders. But oh, my, the pain of it. The sudden, blinding impact. The instant of christ what the fuck ow ow ow ow my head really hurts!

No real harm done. That particular part of the skull is one of the densest, hardest bones in the body, and an impact barely sufficient to macerate the skin is hardly enough to cause real injury.

Pain, though. Lots of pain. And outrage.

I finished driving the last couple of pickets, and put away all the gear. I even made a point of not being crabby for the rest of the evening, despite the headache -- though I admit I was less than sympathetic about Elder Son's mouth ulcer crisis.

I will finish that goddam fence, of course. I just have to keep reminding myself how very good home-grown Tasmanian strawberries taste.

Meanwhile, I had a nice email from the opera libretto people. Apparently the words I've sent them are in the right sort of ballpark, which is nice. The task is reasonably challenging: part of the story develops in near-Elizabethan English, while another part unfolds in the kind of late 18th-century language you'd know from Byron and Shelley and their ilk. I have to move back and forth between the two without losing the thread or my own focus.

What I'm doing is writing the stuff, then correcting for Elizabethan/Byronic, then working to enhance the imagery. After that, there's another editing pass to get the Elizabethan/Byronic flavour right. And then there's another pass in which I read the stuff aloud.

Why? Well... somebody's gotta sing this stuff, or at least sing lines derived from it. I don't want the poor fockers looking at the lyrics/words and being overcome with an immediate desire to assassinate the writer. I want the words to come at least reasonably easily and rhythmically off the tongue - and the only way I can make that work is by reciting it myself.

Of course, there's inevitably some adjustment. Unless you've done this kind of thing, you won't realise how different the written word is from spoken language -- or even operatically sung stuff. Without going into too much detail, there's a certain natural rhythm to spoken language, and you have to work with it, or you make your dialogue nigh useless. (Shakespeare was a complete God at this stuff. Go look up 'iambic pentameter' sometime.)

So. Once the words are adjusted for speakasingability, then there's yet another pass to ensure the Elizabethan/Byronic thing hasn't gone fubar. After all, there's no point in adjusting your hi-falutin' lyrical content for vocalisation if you're just going to jam it full of contemporary stuff. Nope: gotta stay in the appropriate idiom.

Thus the positive feedback was much appreciated, and I am inspired to stay home tonight and crank out a few more scenes.

Of course, part of the staying-at-home is the kids. The daughter has an increasingly wet and chunky cough that messes with her sleep. And the Elder Son, who is almost never ill, has come down with a headache and vomiting. Ergo this is not a one-parent night, and so I'll stay here, keep an eye on the little buggers so Nat can sleep, and meanwhile put in a few extra yards on this opera stuff. Got me a bottle of red to deal with the lingering headache from the picket-driver; the fire is going nice and warm, and I've a few good hours before morning...