September 21st, 2006

wicked fairy bowie

Media whore

I just spent eighteen hours of my life, minus drive time, immersed in visual media.

This is a highly unusual for me, but essentially, I got up this morning, started looking for eighties videos with which to harrass hawkwing_lb (we had great fun with Grace Jones and the Art of Noise and A-Hah and Genesis and Herbie Hancock and Devo and Thomas Dolby (hauling out Rockit was probably unfair)), started swapping David Bowie clips with hernewshoes and stillsostrange, got sidetracked into explaining to truepenny why the young Bowie will be playing Felix in the movie version of her Mildmay-n-Felix books (and, as sosostris2012 discovered, he's already done the video), got extremely distracted spending innumerable hours wandering through the wilds of YouTube looking at Bowie videos (and interviews, including a terribly coked-jittery post-Ziggy Bowie nervously performing oral sex on his walking stick on the Dick Cavett show: there is some stuff you can't make up) and saving the ones I really liked to a playlist, which I will claim is for hernewshoes' and stillsostrange's convenience.

(It's the velvet jacket brigade. Actually, one of the velvet jacket ones didn't make it in, because I didn't like the version, but I used to have a green velvet jacket just like that, when the world was young. I am particularly fond of Bowie teasing his bass player about her outfit in one of the live ones. He says its cut down from one of his old dresses. Unlike Alice Cooper, David Bowie is vastly improved by sobriety, or whatever cocktail of brain chemicals passes for it in him.)

Then I adjourned to watch The Illusionist, which I thought was quite good, although I figured out the plot rather early on, so its emotional impact was, at best, muted for me. (And it was hampered by a really forgettable romance, and the sex scene? A prime example of a snugglefest that would have been improved by closer acquaintance with the cutting room floor.)

Then I came home, watched Mythbusters and Criminal Minds, and surfeited myself on more Bowie. I think I pretty much never need to watch another music video.

That was... kind of exhausting. *g* And probably more television/movies than I usually watch in a month. Yow.

Call it intensive recreating.

  • Current Music
    David Bowie - Suffragette City
  • Tags
bear by san

Okay, I had better stop listening to the Bowie, Vitas, and Tull shortly

Or I'm going to be writing fantasy stories about expatriate elves taking up with rock and roll bands.

At least they're likely to be one-eyed, one-legged elves with gills. That's something, right?
bear by san

Just living up to the icon:

Why I love my writing group:

[13:36] stillsostrange: Bear, no elves in rock bands
[13:36] stillsostrange: or it's intervention time
[13:36] tanaise: And we'll make you read Sister to the Rain
[13:37] stillsostrange: We'll make you read all of Lackey's elves-in-bands books
[13:37] stillsostrange: or elves-at-renfaires, or whatever they are
[13:37] tanaise: okay, that's just torture!
[13:37] matociquala: I've already read them.
[13:37] matociquala: And Gossamer Axe
[13:37] matociquala: And War for the Oaks
[13:37] matociquala: And The Vampire Lestat
[13:37] matociquala: You'd think I'd be immune.
[13:37] tanaise: Did you read Sister to the Rain and Heavy Metal?
[13:37] matociquala: Who by?
[13:38] matociquala: I'm thinking more hobgobliny elves than elf princes beloved by all, however.
[13:38] matociquala: Maybe somebody will do a fantasy version of the cliche collection, and I can dust it off then!
[13:39] tanaise: Michaels, I think.
[13:39] tanaise: They were actually rather interesting.
[13:39] matociquala: I have missed those
[13:40] tanaise: let me look them up.
[13:40] stillsostrange: There is also Metal Angel, about--shockingly--an ex-pat angel in a metal band
[13:41] stillsostrange: *kicks fishboy*
[13:41] stillsostrange: you're not in a band, don't even think about it
[13:42] jmeadows: aw, he just wants to play the drums
[13:42] tanaise: Oh, I'm sorry. It was Cold Iron.
[13:42] tanaise: (which is technically heavy metal. :)
[13:43] tanaise: It's a bit darker than the lackey books.
[13:43] tanaise: plus, sucked less.
[13:44] matociquala: But the fishboy can siiiing.
[13:44] matociquala: I know. I can write elf battle of the bands.
[13:44] matociquala: Loki shows up heading a glam rock band, and the humble hobgoblin has to put together an electric blues quartet to take him on.
[13:44] matociquala: ...yanno.
[13:45] stillsostrange: snerk
[13:45] tanaise: Sister to the Rain was better, I think, but I can't remember the details.
[13:45] hawkwing_lb: hee
[13:45] matociquala: ...yanno.
[13:45] tanaise: (though it didn't have a elf band in it.)
[13:45] matociquala: (I can't believe I'm actually considering this.)
[13:45] hawkwing_lb: it sounds like fun on steroids
[13:46] tanaise: Her elfs are 'charming sociopaths.'
[13:46] matociquala: hee
[13:46] tanaise: which is pretty much the same as a rock star, really.
[13:46] matociquala: yes.
[13:46] hawkwing_lb: or politician
[13:47] hawkwing_lb:, I don't even want to think about elected rockstar elves

In other news, I learned this morning that Sheila Williams at Asimov's is buying "Tideline," the maudlin postapocalyptic story of a main battle robot and her boy that I read at the KGB bar last month. This is the first time I've sold short fiction to one of the "big three."

It's a good day.

...No elves!...
bear by san

I'm not just fixated on David Bowie's crotch; I'm learning important skills.

As part of our ongoing wrangle about the details of craft, truepenny and I have been talking about what it is that makes some stage performers fun to watch. What makes them better live than in recording, in other words. (This is the practical application of several days of extensively studying Vitas, Ian Anderson, Tina Turner, and David Bowie concert performances, as you may have guessed.)

A certain amount of this discussion centered on the eternal question of why it's amusing and kind of sexy when David Bowie grabs his crotch, and really disturbing when Michael Jackson does it. (Even back in the days when Jackson was far less objectively scary than Bowie. And there's a sort of persona cosine thing going on there that doesn't bear too much inspection.)

Anyway, what we figured out, after some discussion, is that--not to put too fine a point on it--it's about the meta.

I mentioned, when watching the Vitas concert videos, that what really delighted me about them was that, even among all the pomp and spectacle, he was inviting the audience into the joke. Yes, this is camp, yes this is a bit silly, yes, we're here to play a game. But it's a fun game. A delightful game. You break the fourth wall, at a certain point, and invite the audience in to the joke.

You let them know, in other words, that you are not a pompous, humorless twit, and that you're neither taking your posturing seriously, nor trying to put one over on them.

The trick is, for this to work, you also have to be serious about the art. The crotch-grabbing, in other words, has to serve a purpose. If you're just grabbing your crotch because you think it looks sexy, or to shock, or exploit the fact that you have a crotch (or because or you are getting pinched and don't feel like toughing it out through another split) , it loses its charm. You have to deconstruct the crotch-grab while you perform it, in other words. (Billy Idol and Bruce Springsteen have both perfected this maneuver. Tina Turner does a pretty good job of the distaff version.)

This ties into a bunch of stuff. The thing I've been talking about a bit recently, about the need not to duck from writing unpleasant scenes, even though they are unpleasant. (The duty of the artist is never to avert his eyes, quoth Kurosawa. That means from beauty as well as terror, guys.) So yeah, I will write the not-con erotic asphyxiation scene because the book needs it, and I will take that scene quite seriously, and its impact on the story, and its meaning to the characters.

What I can't do is take the writing of the scene seriously. Because it is a performance, and I know it, and you know it, and if I'm going to grab my crotch for you on stage it's going to be for a reason, and the I-know you-know I-knows become part of the performance. Self-honesty is part of honesty to the audience.

Art is a distillation of experience. Sex and violence are part of experience, and closely related to power. These are therefor all legitimate subjects for artistic discourse.

Crotch-grabbing without an understanding of a relationship with your audience is masturbation, whether we're talking about sex or art.

And furthermore, it's part of the contract with the reader. Which does not mean, as it is sometimes abused to mean, that the writer owes the reader something for the reader's seven bucks.What it means is that the author (performer) has entered into a relationship with the reader (audience) and has the responsibility not to abandon that relationship. I don't get to lie to my readers. I am expected to tell them a story.

They don't get to decide what story I'm telling them, though, or how I tell it. (This is why beginning writers are lousy readers; they bloody back-seat drive all the goddamned time.) That is part of the contract, too. If I'm up here dancing like a spaz and making a fool of myself, then they have agreed to trust me regarding whether or not that particular microphone stand needs to be humped at this point in time.

Which is not to say I'm always right. I'm sure I've humped (or failed to hump) a few microphone stands when the other choice might have been better.

Which is why we have the wink and the nod and the agreement, between us, that this is a performance. It's a relationship. I will do my best for them and they will do their best for me.

I can't lie, but I can deceive them. There are rules. I can't cheat, but I can be sly. I can misdirect them, play games with their attention. I can grab my crotch with one hand while I pull a dove from my sleeve with the other. I can pull a dove from my sleeve while I grab my crotch.

If I show you something ugly, sexy, stunning, beautiful, raw, sharp, soft, comforting, humane--it's because I thought you needed to see it. I grab my crotch for the same reason that I turn and give you a wink, or a grin, or slap your shoulder, or toss a bucket of mud.

The crotch-grab is a tool of art. And eventually, if you master it, if you do it well, the audience will figure out whether you are grabbing your crotch to be grabbing your crotch, or grabbing your crotch because there's something more going on.

(Which would be, oh, the difference between David Bowie and Axl Rose.)

It was at this point that I issued the statement more or less immortalized in the icon above. (or to the left, depending on your setup.)

And that is what David Bowie's Area has to do with making art.

truepenny also says some interesting things over here.

Pursuant to that conversation, I made this icon for truepenny, and it came out so well, I kept a copy.

I reserve the right to fuck my microphone, as shall seem good to me.

pecunium has a few words on the efficacy of torture, here.

If there were only something between us other than our clothes.

ETA: Further to the discussion, a glass_cats post.
bear by san


Have I in fact stunned 1,348 people into silence with David Bowie's area?

...I'm a-gonna hafta remember this trick.

In other news, I split an arrow at archery tonight. (Okay, you can't actually split them any more; but I didn't just knock the, er, nock off it. I took a chunk out of the aluminum, too.)
  • Current Music
    David Bowie - Modern Love
bear by san

OMG. I just figured it out, the thing that's been niggling at me about that concert video.

It's a bloody one-man-band true-omniscient narrator. That is why my brain will not let go of the last minute and a half of that Bowie concert video, after about 2:54 on the clock.

The bloody bastard. That's freaking genius.

That is how omniscient works. Narrator, character, slip, slip, slip. I can almost hear a click when he transitions. And he's exploiting symbols, and undermining them, and doing it all in this really unsettling and fascinating way. Which of course is the same thing he's always been doing--he's just much more subtle and tricky now.

He's using really precise telling detail, instead of costumery and pageant. And he's doing it live on stage.


I comfort myself again that writing is not a performance art. But if it were? Done really well, that's what it would look like.

(why yes, I have just spent two days blogging about pop stars grabbing their junk. but damned if I didn't just have an epiphany. so it was worth it.)