ST:TNG:4x22: Half a Life

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“Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed and what are you doing for dinner?”

Lwaxana Troi’s annual visit to the Enterprise is a genuine surprise this year, in that it breaks the slapstick comedy mould and gives Majel Barrett-Roddenberry something dramatic and meaty to play. “Half a Life” isn’t entirely a success, probably because it doesn’t have enough time to explore itself fully; and besides, it isn’t much fun to watch, given the subject matter. But Barrett excels in a showpiece role, and guest star David Ogden Stiers is likewise excellent.

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So Now Then

I’ve been making movies for, what? About exactly 25 years? I must have started when I was 11 or 12, or earlier. It’s become increasingly clear to me in the last little while – in the most comforting, serene, wonderful of ways – that I may be done. What does “done” mean: it means only that for the majority of my life, a quarter of a century even, there was a persistent “pull” in the back of my mind telling me that I should be making a movie, which alternately inspired or tortured me with flights of creativity / a profound sense of failure as I went along. That “pull” seems to be gone.

A few things are clicking into place. The first is the absolute absence of ideas – I have none. There is nothing “in the basement,” as Rocky put it. Nothing kicking around in the back of my head on the (till now) ceaseless laundry list of things I’d like to put on tape someday. It’s not a lack of drive or ambition; there is nothing being suppressed or unexpressed here, which used to be half the problem. It’s just that there’s nothing waiting for me to work on it. I think maybe those things died with Who Remembers How It Ends? Not because that was any kind of final work of anything. It just happened to be the last one. (The title, at least, finally has a purpose.)

There’s an obvious catalyzing factor, too. I am transitioning, and have been for a while, from one phase of my life to another. It took a frustratingly long time to get here. I think I have been leaning towards this new lifestyle for a few years now, unable to move any further than “leaning,” for a variety of reasons beyond my direct control. Now, all of a sudden, the gate is wide open – and I see a possibility, a strong, bright, golden one. It excites me all up and down, but it has nothing to do with the thrilling pull inside me that used to slowly, one by one, tease movies out of my unconscious and into formless shapes that slowly became less formless over the months and years it took to commit something like them to tape, and show them to a crowd.

And it was always something like them, as I guess every content creator on the planet is well aware; nothing ever came out of my efforts that was anything more than, say, 15% similar to whatever pure energy it represented at its inception. That made the final products seem frustrating and rudimentary, like I was fumbling for a language I couldn’t speak, based only on the street signs of a foreign city I was visiting for the first time. I got to a point, a place in my ability to express myself in visual ideas, and got no further - and even allowing that everyone must feel this frustration to an extent, I also know for a fact that there are people who do get further. And I’ve been aware, and have been for a long time, that there was a line between me and the people who really oughta be doing this for a living. Before the pull went away, that awareness drove me crazy, made me feel awful about myself, made me feel like a Failure with a capital F that struck down right to the bottom of my soul. My inner 16-year-old self was screaming at me, all the time, and especially for the first five years of my thirties.

And then, thank goodness, thank the stars, thank all the good things under the bright brilliant sun, the pull went away - and it stopped.

That autumnal feeling that walked me through Sherwood Forest when I was a teenager, dreaming up shots for The Hunt or Fate of Dietrich; the pulse-quickening drive that propelled my feet independent of my body as I walked into the womens’ washroom at York University while inventing Light & Magic. Even whatever slow, eggshell-dry artistic certainty held strong enough to defiantly, if meekly, see Who Remembers? through to the end. Finally, that inexorable need - by which I was judging myself, rightly or wrongly, every day - became a need for something else, and altogether warmer, and more loving, and better.

I thought of something last week, while riffing with Rajo on Twitter, called The ABCs of Puberty, a better sequel to The ABCs of Death than the re-run ABCs of Death 2. I immediately called “C is for Cum Rag” – because I could write, and make, a hell of a 3-minute cum rag short, based on my own, real-life experience. I’ll tell you about it sometime. But for the purposes of this story, on the night in question, I felt a bit of something like that pull. And was then aware, just as quickly, that a) it was real, authentic pull, just like all the others, and yet b) I could put it away, and live the rest of my life without ever acting on it. Because other things make me happy now, and that old pull just passes through me, like a friendly, comforting old sigh.

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#TIFF13 Flex Pack

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If 2013 has taught me anything, it’s that rules were made to be broken. So this year on TIFF’s programme book release date, no Benny, no front to back walk through the book, no equal consideration given to each programme. This year, I worked from the inside out - Midnight, Vanguard, Docs, then Contemporary World and Masters, then everything else. This year, no second choices (Bs and Cs) on my shortlist - just Ms (Musts) and As (first choices). It’s simpler. This year there was the impossible girl, and a bench next to Roy Thompson Hall, and several unhurried days to get it done. This year, no rush. Rushing comes later.

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No downside on any of these.

No downside on any of these.

"Does anyone remember when we used to be explorers?"

That’s a line from the not-very-good Star Trek: Insurrection, spoken with irony by Captain Picard as he and his crew-mates take on yet another political errand in the midst of a big intergalactic war. The words rattle around in my head quite a lot, and not just from general Next Gen overload. (Although - on that subject - yeah. Overload.) It’s a trivial line from a trivial film, but it expresses the soul of a thing to me nevertheless. It’s certainly a meta-commentary on the changes to a television franchise as it moved into feature films. More importantly, it’s a great whalloping reminder that, yeah - sometimes life moves on so fast that you don’t recognize how completely your place in it has changed, until you stop to check yourself. And so that line resonates, and has for most of my thirties. We were explorers. Time went by. Now, if we look, we can scarcely recognize ourselves.

This was meant to be about blogging. Did you know I invented blogging? Sure did, back in ‘97, on a site called “Geocities” that you Gen-Y pups have only heard of in legend and mythology. And then I moved it over to the Main Blog; and then I gave up blogging, and then I found Tumblr, and then I got into Tumblr to get back into blogging. Except, now it’s not anything like the same. I write about Star Trek a whole lot nowadays (which brings me full circle to that Geocities blog, in a not-unworthy dollop of irony), and I have been known to pour my personal journal into the public space anytime I visit a film festival, particularly if it’s a film festival in a far away land. But the personal stuff - the kind of stuff that used to have my close circle of friends, back in the early days of “the internet” when there was nary a Twitter or a Foursquare, alternately fascinated and appalled by the sorts of things I was willing to put “out there,” i.e. my whole life, within reason, on a daily basis - that stuff was gone.

Part of me thinks maybe Tumblr killed the blogging urge forever, and not just for me; for the Internet. Back when the front page of Tederick.com was a regular newsfeed of whatever I was thinking and doing at the time, when the most frequent question I received from the agog introverts in my life (myself included) was “why are you putting this out there?” - a question you’d think I’d be able to answer after fifteen fucking years - the whole process of blogging was simultaneously more singular and more arcane. Now I literally know one person without any form of social media presence - one. I can obviously still write occasional blog posts on public-facing topics like whether a new Star Wars movie is a good thing. But the real genesis of the blogging, as I used to do it, was the more elliptical stuff - the mood in the room, the smell in the air - which Tumblr just does better anyway. There are things I can’t say in ten thousand online words, but an animated gif of Thor and Loki happy-dancing down the rainbow bridge can express in its entirety. Tumblr is the visual imagination of a whole sector of the human race, writ terrifyingly large.

But I still feel like something is back there, missing. Something in the basement, I guess - the awareness that I used to do a thing, and that a part of me (in my mind) still does, but I never write or post anything like I used to, because we used to be explorers, and now we aren’t. And then a few terrifying reminders surfaced in a matter of weeks, from people who used to tell me they admired my blogging, and are now putting things into the sphere that I couldn’t match on my best day - because they’re doing the work, and the work is the work is the work. And it’s like - fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Sometimes, guys. Sometimes the world just hands you your ass - and you know it’s one of those when it’s as beautiful as it is painful, and you’re looking out over the precipice of the thing and you think to yourself - am I jumping, or not? Am I falling? Have I hit the water? And do I have enough air to get to the surface, way, way up there?

And with those being the sensations, I can’t help thinking to myself - what happened? Is it just that it’s more socially acceptable for me to write florid prose about the experience of going to a film festival than it is to write florid prose about the experience of walking through this life? Or is it just that I chickened out? My actual journal, which averages about twenty pages a month, was a whopping fifty for the month of January alone, which suggests - albeit under admittedly unique circumstances - that the words are in there. They don’t make an enormous amount of sense, but surely, at some point, they need to start coming back out.

Off to New Zealand for 3 weeks. I’ll post to Tederick.com when I can.

The Retconned Christmas

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Gfellers Pizza Parlour - open late.

Ho ho ho, and welcome back to the month a year where I’m the worst atheist alive. Well no, not really: I’m certainly not swanning about celebrating the birth of Christ, at least not directly. I’m swanning about, fetishizing the stuff.

This is what Ebert calls “touching the bases.” I touch them all, and hope to become a better person. Once a year, a random collection of oddments across all media - the musical, the sculptural, the edible, the literary, the cinematical, the biological - has the ability to de-Grinchify my cantankerous heart and send me spiraling backwards to an imagined 1840s London driven dark by furious black and white and poorly-preserved film stock. (Scrooge, the best of the filmed adaptations of A Christmas Carol, plays at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on December 20. This is Base #1. Though I admit, the notion of seeing the film on anything other than a 4x3 television set disturbs me down to my marrow bones.) Base #2 is Dickens’ novella itself, which I do not read every year, but nearly every year. It doesn’t take long - you can crank through it while you’re waiting for the house to go quiet on the 24th, which inevitably takes less time than you think, but no matter; you can stay up a bit past the descent of silence, just to get to Stave Five, a.k.a. the Stave That Totally Owns.

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THE BENEDICT CHRONICLES: LE SELECT BISTRO

Being also known as THE RETURN OF THE JEDI - click here to read!

#TIFF12 video blog for September 6, 2012: Blood Orange. In which American Beauty is read live, the Ryerson freight train goes off the rails, and secrets are at long last revealed.

We get older; the world gets better.

Mark reads about 90s-era homophobia in the new North Toronto, circa May 2012

A couple of years ago, me and some of my high school friends took one last tour of North Toronto Collegiate, due to be torn down. (I was, evidently, in a “very hairy” mode that month.) As someone about as resistant to change as the next fellow I was somewhat internally dismayed at the idea of that old place being gone forever, but the tour reversed my thinking; these kids today deserve something so much better than that beaten-down old schoolhouse. My first tour of the new North Toronto C.I. this spring, to coincide with the school’s 100th anniversary, confirmed the thinking - what a marvelous place the new building is. It is so comfortably familiar and brilliantly modern, all at the same time. It even smells the same. Mark and I went together, and ran into Sandy randomly in one of the hallways, and for about four minutes, it was 1994. The band were even playing the school song when I left. It doesn’t get much better than that.

In the school’s new foyer, they were giving away back issues of the school newspaper, the Graffiti. When I was in high school, one of the larger newspaper-related events was when one of the students came out of the closet in a front page article called “Anxieties of a Gay Student;” I later wrote a follow-up piece called “Anxieties of a Straight Student,” responding to the wellspring of homophobia that bubbled up in reaction to the original article. Those were the days.

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Watched: Alice in Wonderland, Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle

Yes, I get it - I get all of it. I get why critics and fans howled with derision upon the release of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland; and I get why it made a billion dollars. It may be the most mediocre, the most automatically-handwritten, movie in the history of movies. There’s something to it, certainly; but every time it threatens to tip over into really having something to it, the film pulls back. It reminds me of that episode of Star Trek where Data prolonged a chess game indefinitely by taking the least risky move at every turn. At a hundred hours long, Alice in Wonderland would still be exactly this tweedle-humdrum.

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