March 22, 2016

22:03:2016

Yesterday morning started with a shock. It’s less than a week now until the Lady Holly and I jet off, first to London to pick up Jon, Dom, and Nikki, and then to Iceland. Unsurprisingly, given the size of Iceland, our main destination in this country is Reykjavik. We’d booked accommodation there for the five of us months ago at a nice apartment close to the middle of the city. The Lady Holly got informed yesterday, by email while on the way to work, that our accommodation had been cancelled.

Admittedly the website we had booked it through had tried to email Holly to inform her that when they went to take payment there wasn’t enough funds, but as we were away with some friends over the weekend this email never found it’s recipient.

Even more admittedly, it was totally our fault.

We had input my credit card details when booking it all those months ago with the plan to change the card details to my travel card once it had the appropriate funds on it, and then completely forgot to do so. They had tried to take the funds, couldn’t, then tried to contact us, couldn’t, and then promptly cancelled the booking. I can’t blame them, but it was shattering.

Holly called me with tears in her voice and managed to choke out what had happened, and that she had already tried to rebook it only to discover that with less than a week to our arrival it was well and truly booked out. Luckily I was still at home, and so, after calling work to let them know I was going to be late, went on a hunt to find us some new accommodation. Here’s the good bit; I got us a new apartment for roughly the same price, and even at a similar distance from the city. I managed to bring some calm to the now no-longer-hyperventilating Lady Holly, and informed the rest of the gang to the change in location. They weren’t bothered, they’re champs, and I got to be a hero…although one that helped cause the issue in the first place, but let’s ignore that fact.

I have a theory that when travelling you should always expect something to go wrong, that way when it does you can greet it calmly with a “Oh, hi, I was expecting you” rather than completely freaking out. I’m hoping this was our something wrong, that way we can have smooth sailing from here out, but I’m not getting my hope to high. I’ll still be on the look out to see if our something wrong decides to bring along any of it’s friends.

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Something that I came across in my internet wanderings this week is this outstanding project that shows how wonderful artists are and how powerful collaboration is.

It’s a movie about the life of Vincent Van Gogh called ‘Loving Vincent’ that was made by over 100 artist hand painting every frame in Van Gogh’s style. The video below explains all.

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Another thing well worth watching is this TED talk by Tim Urban, who gives a funny and entertaining talk about the mind of a procrastinator. Really good stuff in here, especially a theory about what happens to procrastinators when the deadlines are removed that I’m sure we can all relate to.

 

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In five days we leave and I’ve already checked out from work and am using my powerful ability to do the bare minimum without anyone noticing. Probably time to start thinking about packing.

Talk soon.

Damian

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March 18, 2016

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I believe that the term ‘write what you know’ is about including small details of yourself and your experiences into your writing in order to imbue it with authenticity, rather than only write about topics where you are academically knowledgeable. Because of that when I have a small memory from some part of my life that seems to stick around I like to write it down as I figure it must have some import for me not to forget it, with the added hope that one day I’ll be able to use it when it’s appropriate to a story. On that note, here is one of those memories.

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I was in year nine at school, which would have made me fourteen or fifteen years of age. I had been at the same school for the whole of my education, the fact of which will become relevance by the end of this story.

In school I was very much an inbetweener. I was far from one of the cool kids, who in my school were the misbehaviours; the ones who got into drinking, drugs and sex before I could even consider that those things would one day have a place in my world. I was also not in the nerdy kids group, the unfortunate outcasts who were always just a little bit too different to fit in and could never figure out why. No, I was in the middle, I had a group of friends I fit in with, I was shy but not crippling so, I was well behaved and read a lot of fantasy books; I still do. I was, and am, happy to be an inbetweener. I think it makes school just a part of your life rather than the defining part. High school wasn’t the glory days of my youth nor was it an experience I’ll resent forever, it was simply the beginning of me figuring out who I am.

So, I was in year nine at the only school I had ever attended when a kid by the name of, let’s call him Leo Moretti (because the internet’s not such a small place and I’m not writing this as some sort of internet shaming), approached me. Leo was one of the cool kids, the kind of guy who’s arrogantly confident and hangs out with the older kids. He had more to do with my older brother, Matt, than with me, for example, despite the fact we shared a year level. I’m not even sure I had ever spoken to Leo before this day, but I knew who he was because he was loud and outspoken. I was undoubtedly the opposite. Because of this I was surprised when Leo approached me, but was even more surprised when he genuinely asked me “Hey. Are you new here?”

If you ever want to feel invisible try attempting to convince a kid you’ve spent the last three years sharing a classroom with that you’d always been there.

I honestly don’t think he even meant any malice to the question, he was just a self absorbed kid who saw a person he had never bother to recognise before. Nevertheless it was still shattering at the time to feel so unnoticed and unimportant, and to have to argue for my own existence.

If I ever write a story about a person who has to battle with loneliness and feeling invisible that memory will be my cold open.

Turns out that’s what I know.

Talk soon.

Damian

March 16, 2016

16:03:2016

It’s late on this hot Melbourne evening and a number of tiny flies are crawling over my laptop screen as I write this, thanks to the door being open to let in a breeze.

I’ve been thinking about connectivity, especially that between strangers. The Lady Holly and I were talking the other day about how we see maybe hundreds of strangers everyday and that after they leave our eyeline the likelihood is that we will never see them again. Because of this I often find myself forgetting they’re real people; in the sense they they, like me, have their own world around them full of their people, their favourite places to get a coffee, their weird idiosyncrasies nobody knows about. They seem like background players, TV extras, or NPCs, only there to fulfill a small purpose in my story, even if that purpose is only to be seen. But the thing to remember is that I could walk up to any single one of those people, interrupt them, have a conversation, and realise that they’re real, and that they are no less and no more a protagonist as me.

Connectivity’s a funny thing too, because it can sometimes only happen one way, or, happen between two people without either of them ever meeting or communicating to each other. Let me give you an example. There’s a sandwich place not to far from my house that I like to get lunch at sometimes. It’s in the next suburb over from me, Moonee Ponds, and it’s called Under the Breadline – good name, right? I’ve only ever gotten one type of sandwich from there despite the fact I’ve gone there many times. It’s called the Paolo special (presumably because the guy who invented it was called Paolo) and it contains a chicken schnitzel, cheese, lettuce, slice of fried potato, and sweet chilli sauce. If it sounds like an odd combination I assure you it is outstanding. Someone who agrees with me is Paul. I’ve never met Paul, spoken to Paul, or would be able to pick him out of a line up. I don’t even know his last name. But Paul was the one who recommended Under the Breadline to me. You see, a while ago, before I knew of Under the Breadline’s existence, I decided to go on a google hunt to find a nice sandwich shop near my house. As you can probably guess, I was successful. This hunt led me to the website Zomato, which lists all types of eateries in your area, giving a description of each, some photos, and reviews. When I go a-hunting online, whether it be for dining, shopping or other, one of the main things I look out for are reviews. They’re my go to. Mostly because the people leaving the review have no reason to lie to me (unless they’re from the person trying to sell you the thing in which case they’re usually so over the top positive that they’re easy to spot) and so you usually end up with an honest account of the restaurant, product, or other. Paul left a comment for Under the Breadline on Zomato. He gave it an A+ rating and strongly suggested the Paolo special. Because of Paul (last name unknown) I eat the Paolo special on a regular basis. He has directly affected my life and yet will never know it or even know of my existence. Thank you, Paul.

My last point on this matter is you, because we’re connecting right now. While some of you out there are reading this because you know me personally, others of you don’t. So, we’re strangers. Strangers who have each stopped in our individual stories, that, beyond this digital crossing of paths, may never intersect again, and seen each other. Hi. How’re you doing? I hope you’re stories’s going well.

Talk soon.

Damian

March 14, 2016

14:03:2016

I did something this morning that I don’t normally do. When my alarm went off I rolled over and went back to sleep. I’m not opposed to a good sleep in, but on a work day I’m very much in the mind set that delaying the inevitable in order to spend some more time with sweet lady slumber will only lead to issues further down the track. Namely, panickingly rushing about with the certain fear that I’ll be late. Because of this I’m not even very good at attempting to sleep in on a work day. If I try it only takes my brain a few minutes before it starts to alarm the consequences of what I’m attempting loudly and frequently. This usually results in me doing a bunch of mental maths, moving minutes and the morning’s activities around to a point where I can safely afford myself those ten extra minutes and quiet my internal alarm. However, even if I do manage to move around my already fairly streamlined schedule to allow for extra sleep, the act of doing so makes my brain a hive of activity to the point where I am undeniably awake. Pointless.

Today was different. Unlike the rest of Victoria, who have the day off thanks to Labour day (a public holiday no one really seems to know the reason for), I did have to go to work; thanks to the fact that I work for a University who (for reasons equally unknown) don’t get the day off. Over the weekend I helped my sister, Angela, paint her apartment. In a past life I was a painter – I’m using the concept of ‘past life’ given in this brilliant and provocative comic by SMBC – and occasionally I still get to put those skills to good use. It was undeniably satisfying to see Angela’s apartment (which she has already renovated from something resembling a crack den into a lovely single bedroom apartment) change from a mix match of stained and plastered walls into a clean and fresh living space; but it did leave me exhausted. The kind of exhausted that bleeds over to the next day no matter how good of a sleep you have. To add to this I also think I’m becoming sick, am sick, or have quietly been slightly sick for a while without realising. My energies shot and lately I’ve seemed to always be running a slight fever. So, because of all this, I managed to give myself an extra half hour of sleep without my internal alarm screaming at me like some man on a TV commercial advertising a sale on rugs that seems to think flashing graphics and repeatedly yelling is the best way to do so. Basically I just didn’t do my normal half hour morning exercises. Exercise = bad, sleep = good.

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The other week a screenwriting friend of mine, by the name of Nice-Guy-Sean (not his actually name), and I were discussing how often we read scripts and screenplays. I read a lot of scripts and screenplays; mostly when I have some downtime at work as they’re the perfect length to allow me to both start and finish a story across all the little ten minute breaks I give myself throughout the day. For a wannabe screenwriter I think it’s crucial to read lots of scripts and screenplays. This may seem like saying it’s good to know how to pedal if you want to ride a bike but, unlike prose writers who want to write novels thanks to all the novels they’ve read, screenwriters generally want to write because of all the film and TV they’ve watched. Which means we’re not in the habit of reading scripts and screenplays.

Like I said, I think it’s crucial, mostly because of how much you can learn from reading them. Screenplay format is pretty basic and it really only takes reading one script to learn how to structure it. However I’ve found that there are a lot of minor techniques and situations that aren’t immediately obvious how to write. Things like character descriptions, split screens, flashbacks, point of views, close ups etc. etc. There’s a really great PDF by How Did They Write It that goes through a number of movies and looks at how they wrote what we watched (this was shared with me by Nice-Guy-Sean, just one of the many of reasons he has that name).

While reading scripts and screenplays has helped me learn all these “rules” what it’s also shown me is that the rules are always fluid and if you write it in a way people can understand, then that’s the right way to write it. It’s probably been the best thing I’ve learned. It’s far too easy for me to get held up while writing with worrying about if I’m writing certain scenes or scenarios the “right” way. Having read all those scripts and screenplays has shown me how each writer has their own style and way of doing things, and in turn has given me more confidence to write any way I damn please! But it’s still also nice to see how they’ve done things when I’m stumped about how to describe a shot.

If you want to read some scripts for yourself some good starting places to find them are here, here, and here.

Talk soon

Damian

March 11, 2016

11:03:2016

I finished a first draft today.

This is the one that I started around the same time I started this blog, the one that I was all enthused about because I was going to throw caution to the wind, do no planning for, and just spill it out onto the page.

It still took longer than expected.

That can often be the way for me with writing. I have this dream of me sitting at my laptop, my brain in the perfect writing space, getting lost in the words, and emerging with some amazing, finished product ready to go. A dream is all it is. Even with me lowering my inhibitions and consciously allowing myself to write with as little planning and forethought as my inner perfectionist self will allow, the actual writing still comes with second guessing, new ideas, and the desire to edit what few words I have written before writing more. I managed to clamp down on most of that for this first draft by repeating the mantra ‘save it for the second draft’ to myself over and over again.

Saying all that I love my first draft. It’s an absolute mess, but, like a dog who looks up at you with nothing but joy after rolling around in mud (and who knows what else), I love it all the more for it. It needs buckets of work, but I feel confident that, after I wash off all the mud (and shit), underneath I’ll find an adorable pooch I’m happy to share with the world. As mentioned I already have a bunch of new ideas, knowledge of scenes to move around, and various other edits ready to implement, but it feels damn good to have the bulk of the work done, and, surprisingly, for it to be looking and sounding somewhat like what I wanted it to.

I’m planning to get stuck into the second draft straight away, mostly because I already have a google doc with a long dot point list of changes (not least of which is fixing basic spelling and grammar, seriously, it’s a mess). I also need to do some research for this second draft. The plot involves a fictional research centre, and while I do work as a scientist by day, I still did little to no research for this first draft. I may even have invented some science in order to advance my plot, and, while sci-fi does allow a bit of make believe, I’d prefer to back up as much of my science as I can. Plus I’m hoping research will give me some new ideas and possibly even cooler stuff to include in my script.

After I finish this second draft (which really feels like first draft-version 2.0) my plan is to share it with my writing confidants, get their feedback, and then probably shelve it for a month or two. At which point I’ll hopefully look at it with fresh eyes, which combined with the feedback I expect to get, should make for a strong third draft.

In the meantime I have a number of other projects I’m excited to get my teeth stuck into, some of which I have already started for the benefit of having multiple projects on the go in case I get stuck with one.

And that’s probably enough of me talking about myself.

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I’ll share one quick thing with you today. It’s this trailer for an upcoming movie called Kubo and the Two Strings. I’m very excited about this one. The story looks full of some great fantasy and epic scenes, and amazingly is done all in stop motion. It’s made by the team of artistic geniuses that brought Neil Gaiman’s Coraline to the big screens, which is enough for me to buy a ticket for it right now. Check it out for yourself below.

Talk soon.

Damian

March 8, 2016

08:03:2016

The Lady Holly and I will be traveling overseas for 21 days at the end of this month. As we will be letting loose for those 21 days in the white north of Iceland and Norway, as well as the shades of grey that comprise London, we’ve decided to restrict ourselves for the 21 days leading up to this. Basically, eat healthy and drink less beer, or, a diet.

We’re only three days in but already it’s made me realise how much I use food as a means to kill boredom. I often get through my occasionally mundane day by planning what to eat, thinking about eating that thing, then eventually eating it. I honestly don’t know how much time is spent in this activity, a worrying amount of time I’m sure. Perhaps I think about food every three seconds, but if, as common knowledge states, as a male, I’m also thinking about sex every three seconds then those three seconds are filling up fast. Either way if my day is particularly boring, thinking about food becomes the most exciting part of it. Up until the point where thinking about the food stops being entertaining and starts becoming torturously desirable. At which point it’s continual boredom or I eat the unhealthy food. It’s usually the latter. Hence the diet.

Surprisingly, thinking about healthy food doesn’t really provide the same entertainment value. I guess fantasising about a bowl of salad doesn’t release the same dopamine levels as fantasising about a bowl of M and M’s.

I’ve found the best thing for me to do is either stay so busy that I don’t need to rely on thoughts of nachos or maltesers to entertain me. Or, better still, find more superior forms of entertainment. My world is full of amazing, delectable, things to watch, read, and do; things that make eating-as-entertainment seem like the aforementioned bowl of salad. Here’s the plan: I replace thinking about junk food with; fantasising about reading a delicious book, or daydream about that mouth watering TV show I’m going to watch when I get home, or get giddy thinking about some appetising scene I want to write.

I doubt think this will entirely curb my sugar addiction but it should hopefully work to stop me shoving a bag of lollies into my mouth as soon as I get home from work…hopefully.

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In other news, I woke up this morning to my phone informing me that my Little London Boy, aka twin brother Jonathan, passed his UK practical nursing exam and can now work as a nurse in the UK. Considering he’s been living there for over six months this is a very good thing. Considering that he’s been trying for close to two years to get this registration complete this is a great thing. Despite having a Bachelor’s of Nursing Degree and working as a nurse in Australia for over five years the UK still made Jonathan jump through a seemingly endless supply of hoops in order to get his registration. This involved corresponding back and forth to London, sending them a bunch of forms by mail, getting his old university to send them a bunch of forms by mail, getting his old university to send them the same forms again after the UK nursing registration board lost the original forms, sitting a four hour English exam despite the fact that it’s the only language he’s ever spoken or written, sitting a three hour theoretical nursing exam, then sitting this final practical exam twice after they failed him the first time for not passing a cotton ball between his hands when swabbing a wound despite the fact that’s actually the more hygienic way to do it, and plenty more steps that I can’t remember. It took him two years, and literally thousands of dollars, thanks to the registration board charging him at every possible step of the procedure (sitting each practical exam cost $2000 each time and then they even charged him for passing it!), but finally he has passed through the last hoop. Massively huge congratulations to him.

Apart from being a nurse Jonathan is also a very talented writer (much better than me). He also has a website where he spins thought provoking and entertaining blogs about his often eye-opening experiences as a nurse, as well as some beautiful pieces of his creative writing. The kids got talent, and while I’m undoubtedly biased, I definitely recommend you check it out.

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Lastly I want to show you the jaw dropping guitar mastery of John Butler. I saw this video a while ago of him playing his ever evolving track, Ocean. It’s a masterpiece not just to listen to but also to watch. The guy is a freak of the best kind.

Talk soon.

Damian

February 7, 2016

07:03:2016

On the weekend I participated in a pretty cool scriptwriting competition called the Tasmanian Gothic Short Script Challenge. What was so cool about this one was that you had 48 hours to write a short (seven pages or less) script in the horror genre. To ensure you did it in the given time frame they gave you three “prompts”, which were details that had to be included in the script, although you got to chose just how relevant they were to your story. The prompts I was given were ‘Wedding ring’, ‘Chemist’, and the line “Now’s not the time”. It was a lot of fun, made more so by Holly and I riding to the beautiful new library at the docklands, drinking a very big coffee, and setting up shop there for afternoon it took me to write it.

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Last Thursday I went to the Nova Cinema in Carlton to watch the first night of the 2016 TED conference. The conference wasn’t being held in at the Nova, or even in this country, it was in Vancouver in Canada, but they very cooly live streamed it to cinemas all around the world.

It was a fantastic night that included talks from a 10 year old girl from India, an engineer from a “semi-secret research and development facility created by Google” (as described by wikipedia) know as X, a geneticist who blew our minds by explaining just what sequencing the human DNA allows us to know, a hugely successful screenwriter, and more. While I can’t share them all with you (because TED haven’t added them to their site yet) I will add one of the final things they showed us, a video from the alternative band/music videos geniuses OK GO. I won’t bother trying to explain it, just be sure that it is awesome and definitely worth a watch.

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Finally for tonight is this article from I fucking love science about a company in Paris that plans to use bacteria found in squid to illuminate shop fronts, public spaces, and installations, with the hope of lighting up whole streets with these microbial lamps.

Have a read, I thought it was pretty cool, maybe you will too.

Talk soon

Damian