Quickie Review: SWORD OF TRUST (2019)

B for effort, B- for execution. It met my barest expectations, namely watching Marc Maron play a version of himself as he did on his IFC show and on GLOW. And while the Maron snark shown in the trailer might’ve been my primary draw, SWORD OF TRUST teases me with the unspoken parts of his character Mel’s story. Of course, his story wasn’t the film’s story.

Writers Lynn Shelton (also the director) and Mike O’Brien compensate for what was lacking in Mel’s story by fleshing out almost every other character. Not completely, but enough for the story’s purposes. And I think the improvisational aspect of the film elevated the them above what could’ve been an utter trainwreck of southern stereotypes. SWORD OF TRUST’s biggest positive, I think, is how it (thankfully) baited and switched on anyone looking for a lazy, self-congratulatory endorsement of those stereotypes. Don’t bother seeing it if you’re expecting to just laugh at “dumb Southerners.”

“And if you need an Xscape for now…”

I love these newer tunes that make me reminisce…

I think I’m in the Ruff Endz, now
I seen her throwin’ up H-Town
You was livin’ off of Dru Hill
Wasn’t Ready For The World but baby, who is?
Know you prettier than all the El Debarges
Never worry ’bout the Total of the charges

–“Anywhere” by Anderson .Paak (feat. Snoop Dogg and The Last Artful, Dodgr)

Please Pardon the Mess…

Thank god I have the urge to consistently blog at certain times of the year, like Good Friday for instance. Otherwise, I would never know how to come back from long hiatuses.

To be honest, life hasn’t been great for me over the past several months. Keeping up with a Weeknotes habit has been the absolute least of my concerns. I do plan on going back to them eventually, but right after some changes that I’ve put in motion start to crystalize. Basically, I just needed to empty out my head and replace it with things that make me happy… or at least happier in the long run.

Maybe I’ll develop the stones to talk about it in a little more depth. Suffice it to say that the two videos below pretty much spell out what’s happened to me over the past 5 or so months.

Here’s the before picture…

And here’s the after…

It really is amazing what you can do with the support of people who care about you, and the proper therapeutic interventions!

“I Will See You On #GoodFriday…”

Happy Good Friday from the land of my ancestors!

Prior to the reenacted crucifixions, dozens of barefoot penitents beat their bare backs with sharp bamboo sticks and wood. Some had their backs with razors cut to keep them bloody.

Sterilized nails are used in the rituals, and after they are lowered from the crosses, the devotees are checked by medical workers to make sure they are no complications from their injuries.

Painter Ruben Enaje, 59, was nailed to the cross for the 33rd time as part of giving thanks after surviving a fall from a building.

ABC News

#Weeknotes S01 E03

I wondered if I’d be able to keep this up for 52 straight weeks–or whether I even should. I’ve been in personal recovery mode this past week, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to report. If there’s one thing I’ve been trying to do, at least in the writing area of my life, is to shoot for no Zero Days. That much I accomplished at least. So it’s going to be short this week. Welcome to season 1, episode 3!

WRITING PROGRESS. No zero days, at least…

  • Longest Writing Chain This Week: 1 day.
  • Short Story 01. A couple of scenes that may not make it into the final draft.
  • Comic Script 01. No progress.

FEEDING MY HEAD. Just a random sampling of podcasts and Netflix offerings. At long last I got to see that AVENGERS: INFINITY WARS was everything (good and bad) that everyone said it was. I’ve paused the LONG DISTANCE and SERIAL podcasts but only for a bit, but I did scan through some of the other ones I listen to. Maybe I’ll list those one of these days.

IN THE WILD. Perfect metaphor of recent life events, thanks to the current snowpocalypse. The mailbox second from the right is mine.

#Weeknotes S01 E02

I haven’t been well this week. You could say I’ve had quite the workout. So, there hasn’t been a lot of progress. That’s the other side of the accountability coin, isn’t it? Not just to list successes, but to talk about when things didn’t get done. Welcome to season 1, episode 2!

WRITING PROGRESS

  • Longest Writing Chain This Week: 1 day.
  • Short Story 01. A few line edits, and a little re-plotting of the third act. Nothing to speak of. Yes, it is better than nothing; I’m better at acknowledging that than I used to be. A little.
  • Comic Script 01. No progress.

FEEDING MY HEAD. I listened to the next couple of episodes of Season three of the SERIAL podcast. The third episode in particular, “Misdemeanor, Meet Mr. Lawsuit”, hit close to home. My old home that is, where I grew up. On a related note, I do have some parallel reading queued up.

I’ve been migrating my podcasts from one app to Google Podcasts because I’m becoming rapidly spoiled by the relatively seamless syncing between devices. I stumbled onto the LONG DISTANCE podcast, and now this is #2 on my queue right after SERIAL. The trailer alone should tell you why this is up my alley.

I haven’t checked this out yet, but did you know there’s a digital archive of HEAVY METAL?

THERE’S A STORY IN HERE SOMEWHERE. Appropos of William Gibson being named by SFWA as the 35th Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master

It’s almost like decades of cypberpunk literature, film, and role-playing games should’ve prepared us for all this!

IN THE WILD. As baggage has been on my mind lately, literally and figuratively…

#Weeknotes S01 E01

Here it is: 2019 and my first official season of Weeknotes. I’m mixing up the usual format with thoughts about the whys and the wherefores of what I’m trying to accomplish with these. This is as much for me as it is for anyone. Welcome to season 1, episode 1!

WRITING PROGRESS. I’ve got a backlog of stories to finish writing, and got’dammit I’m going to finish them. This isn’t a New Year’s Resolution, i.e. not some big thing that just sets me up for failure. No, this is about going back to the grindstone, or back to the woodshed. It’s project management, really. So I’m going to be a little more public with my process, maybe throw in a stat or two now and then.

  • Longest Writing Chain This Week: 2 days
  • Short Story 01. I’ve been working on this since I rediscovered it in my backlog late last year, which technically makes it the first story I’m working on in 2019. Hence, “Short Story 01.” It suffers from the way my first drafts usually go: an interesting start, a few plot points along the way, but really unsure of where it needs to go.
  • Comic Script 01. Another thing I’ve been picking away at for the past few months. I’ve got a long-range outline, but it’s still just something I’m just getting down into a puke draft.

READING. I read a lot. Mostly, in a haphazard manner. It was a relatively light reading week. I pulled M. Rickert’s YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN HERE back out. I’ve read each of these stories before, except for “The Shipbuilder” which I just finished. Also, I’m picking through a flash fiction anthology, NEW MICRO which I happened to buy at a bookstore in Saratoga Springs where I once saw Mary read!

THERE’S A STORY IN HERE SOMEWHERE. Lots of people post a link roundup, but this link roundup will be of things that I feel might have a story in them (i.e. for me to eventually write) even if I have no idea what it might be, regardless of whether anything comes of it.

Not much of a roundup from the past week, but here’s something: I listened to the first episode of season three of the SERIAL podcast. I’m way late to this party, but this is one season taking a look at “A year inside a typical American courthouse” in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Or, as I know it, “The land of my birth.” According to what I’ve read, it’s not set in Cleveland because of the DOJ’s Consent Decree or anything like that. But “…because they let us record everywhere — courtrooms, back hallways, judges’ chambers, prosecutors’ offices.” They mean it, they recorded everywhere that wouldn’t be a violation of attorney/client privilege.

HOW I’M WORKING. I do tweak how I work. The thing is, I can be stubborn about clinging to old ways, but I’m trying to be better. So, whenever I have a thought or idea about my process and how it’s working or not working, I’m going to talk about it.

I talked about how I worked to move my writing workflow wholly into the Google ecosystem from Dropbox. Basically, using Keep and Docs allows me to use almost any device I own or have access to with internet access. It took a bit of thought to mimic my old workflow which was just about as software/OS agnostic as it could be. Using Google takes me a step away from that, but with a little bit of thought and some setting up, I’m probably as close to “ultraportable” as I can get. If I don’t feel like carting around my ThinkPad X1C, my 8.4″ tablet with a foldable Bluetooth keyboard will serve just fine. Either way, I generate content exactly as I always have–brainstorms, ideas, lists are spat out into Keep and get copied and pasted into something. It’s how I wrote the first couple of drafts of this entry.

Docs has its formatting limitations (it’s not MS Word or my tool of choice, LibreOffice Writer). For short stories or comic scripts, a little creativity is needed but I can produce almost the same MS-formatted output as I could with LibreOffice. There’s a rule of thumb about switching off Widow/Orphan protection, which I can’t seem to do with Docs. But given how a lot of venues accept submissions these days–some of whom don’t like MS format or want you submit as plain text, or whatever–it might not matter much. And when it does, I’ve still got LibreOffice.

My submission format of choice, right after Whatever the submissions editor wants, is straight-up MS format in an .rtf. I might need to do a little more tweaking, because exporting a Docs file into .rtf makes the headers look funny. I do not appear to have this problem when exporting to .docx or .odt files. Maybe my preference for .rtf files is something else I need to let go of. (I don’t necessarily have to though–converting a downloaded .odt file and converting to .rtf with LibreOffice seems to work. I told you I was stubborn.)

IN THE WILD. I’m fascinated by the ingenuity of local reuse stores. This reminds me that while I’m trying–again–to do things I’ve tried to do before, life still has to go on and there’s no reason not to make the best use of what you already have.

#Weeknotes S00 E06

Welcome to season 0, episode 6! The series finale, as it were. You know I never dug into why the season/episode title format was so prevalent with the Weeknotes crowd, but it seems right. Either way, we’ll resume with the regular format next week. Today though, we’re on the cusp of a new year. That bears reflecting on.

Around late October/early November, every year for awhile now, I start doing little experiments on better ways to do things. I only recently discovered that there’s a language for what I was doing i.e. PDSA cycling. That’s why I started my Weeknotes experiment when I did, but that’s only the most visible example. I’ve shuffled workflows, I’ve figured out what things I need to sacrifice in order to make my writing work as widely available across every device I own and have access to. I’ve done other things, too, on a more personal level.

But it’s all in aid of getting back to some things that I’ve been missing: geek life, writing life… generally, all the things I’ve (legitimately) had to neglect for one reason or another over the past few years. Because I’m done being miserable.

Thing is, for 2019 there will be no shame, no blame–just the slow, steady work of getting back to what makes my life good. I hope. And, that’s what I’ll be posting about once a week.

IN THE WILD

Quickie Review // DEAR AMERICA: NOTES OF AN UNDOCUMENTED CITIZEN by Jose Antonio Vargas

It’s interesting–and perhaps a little narcissistic?–to think I see parts of my story, and the stories of other Filipino immigrants and children of immigrants I know, even the ones who didn’t go through what Vargas is experiencing now. The themes Vargas uses to categorize his experiences living, in his words, as an undocumented citizen in the U.S. are: Lying, Passing, and Hiding. I look at some of my family’s and others’ stories of adapting to life in these United States (not only the ones who were tago ng tago, but them too), and see those there elements in them, as well.

Surely this was unintentional, but Vargas’s book caused me to wonder if there are rites of passages that Filipino immigrants and/or their children must go through. Or rather, are fated to go through. Odd looks for bringing a lunch to school that wasn’t PB&J? Fucking up the rules of an American sport on the first go-round? Confusion about how everything is “Black and White,” when you saw how some Filipinos and other Brown folks talked stuff about both?

Other parts of Vargas’s story that I can’t relate to directly still had some resonance with my life, but the ones that didn’t had value as well. Vargas offers some education to anyone not familiar with immigration issues. The book certainly filled some gaps in my own knowledge. Vargas spells out why undocumented immigrants can’t “just get legal,” and has numbers on how much undocumented immigrants give, rather than take, economically. He illustrates how the Black struggle, and Black literature especially, informed his own thinking on the dynamics of White power and privilege that affected his life. And he draws a pretty straight line about how Asians benefited from a foundation in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, through the 1965 Voting Rights Act and up to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. That knowledge, that history alone is worth the cover price.