What Happend in 2012 and What Will Happen in 2013

As Jonas has said over on his blog, 2012 has been a turbulent year. Difficult, but also hugely rewarding.

This post was supposed to be about what we did in 2012 and, more importantly, which creative projects lie before us in 2013, but as I sit here and try writing that post I become aware of something that needs to be written first.

I had an accident in May 2012. I haven’t written about the incident on this blog, but this will come as no surprise to those of you who read Jonas’s blog regularly.

The accident itself has left little in the way of permanent physical scars. I have a patch of pink skin on my shoulder that will probably never tan again and a smallish scar above my right eyebrow. It will remain visible for the rest of my life, but as the months pass I’ve more of less gotten used to the sight.

What’s more shocking are the psychological scars. I’ve always been someone who just got back on the horse after falling off. I believe, firmly, that since the past happens to be unchangeable it’s no bloody use lamenting it. What’s done is done. The accident was maybe the first time in my life where I played the “what if”-game to exhaustion. What if I’d gotten out of the house earlier that day? What if I hadn’t ironed the blouse that I wore? What if it had rained? What if I had stopped at the bakery for a bun? And all it did was depress me, deeply, because “what if” could never happen.

Depression didn’t end there. Self-pity aside, and there was a lot of self-pity in those early weeks, there was also the enormous injustice of it all to deal with. Not only is the German legal system heavily weighed against the poor (doubly so against the non-motorized poor), I was also faced with a more criminal kind of injustice. There was, suddenly, a witness to the accident that was willing to testify against me. I was supposed to have crossed the intersection in the red. This wasn’t only infuriating because it is a lie, but also because walking/driving across a red light is a personal pet peeve of mine. In my life I’ve maybe crossed a handful of intersections in the red. All as a pedestrian, which doesn’t make it any less wrong, this is just to illustrate that I remember these incidents because they bother me. The latest one, ironically, was just two weeks after the accident, when I was so distraught over the whole wittness-appears-out-of-nowhere-thing that I crossed a street without looking. To make matters worse, the first police officer that I spoke to seemed to be convinced that I was guilty. He, a life-long car-driver, seemed actually convinced that cyclists should be shot on sight. Would you like a helping of injustice with your injustice? My mother once told me that she feels ashamed, bordering on angry, when she goes grocery shopping and the cashier asks her to lift her shopping basket from the cart to see if there’s stuff hidden underneath – I fear I’ve inherited the same impulse. Only the cashier from the story is probably only following orders whereas what I was experiencing was downright malice.

(The “witness”, incidentally, only contacted the police via the phone and could never be reached again. It’s no longer a problem.)

I apologize for rambling. I suspect that I could keep talking and writing about the accident, adding detail upon detail, and I still wouldn’t have recounted all the things that made me depressed in the weeks and months that followed. What of my bicycle, for example? I loved that bike. It was old and worn, but if I could save one object from our burning house (cats and husbands are not objects!) I would have picked that bike. (It’s a thought experiment I sometimes make… don’t ask.) The bike is trash now. The fork burst in the impact, the frame has micro-fractures. It’s very uncertain if I’ll ever see any money for that. What of the taxi driver? I never thought I was vengeful, but if he never gets behind the wheel of a car again… well, that would be something, wouldn’t it? Won’t happen though. All praise the German legal system.

Rambling. Again. Sorry. The point is that I was very depressed. So depressed that at times I would do nothing but weep for hours. I lost my creativity. Everything seemed pointless. If something like that can happen, what point is there in attempting to create something? Jonas did his best to help. And he did. He was my rock. He was relentlessly positive. Wouldn’t let me depressed, no matter what. He took care of me when I felt too miserable to leave the house. He was, maybe the biggest balm of all, outraged and fuming at each new, horrible turn that the whole affair took. His own creativity suffered, and for him being uncreative is intolerable, but he wouldn’t give up. But sometimes it wasn’t enough. And so, for months and months on end, I vegetated. I only left the house to go to work, avoided meeting friends and family whenever I could.

It improved when we went to Greece in September, but my creativity still was AWOL.

The funny thing is that I don’t quite know how it came back. I know when, though. One week in late November we were talking about making a new Lands of Dream game, maybe in time for Christmas (haha) and there it was. Suddenly I was drawing again. It was as if something inside me suddenly said “now, now, young lady, that’s enough moping, let’s do something.”

Not writing, not yet. The thing that really stopped me from blogging, besides the fact that everything seemed just too much effort in post-accident-life, was that I knew that I would have to write about the scars at some point. I started writing that article a dozen times, and never finished. Not only did it depress me, I also was never happy with what I said. I’m not happy with this post either, but I think I’ve finally understood that it just needs to get out. Capturing the accident in writing seems to rob the beast of some of its strength.

When I started this was supposed to be a post about what a great creative year 2013 was going to be and this is now how I’ll end this post. Jonas recently wrote a short overview of what he is going to be doing in 2013 and I’ll be involved in some of these projects, so you might want to have a look at that.

Besides that I will try to focus on getting back on top of writing things. Not only blogging, that goes without saying, but also short stories and my novel (which is still, sadly, in need of editing). Maybe even a screenplay or two. I always, foremost of all, wanted to be a writer. Drawing, painting and cooking is all very well, but writing is what I need to do.

Speaking of drawing… there will be at least one Lands of Dream game in 2013, maybe even more than one. And painting. Lots of painting. We’ll re-open the Compendium soon, and I’ll also try to get some sort of exhibition space for my acrylic-on-canvas Lands of Dream paintings. Or a way of selling them. Or both. But definitely something.

And finally there will also be lots of cooking in 2013. I have dozens of recipes that I want to share and a dozen more that I want to try out. This obviously also involves doing more episodes of The Starving Artists Kitchen.

So yes, 2013 is going to be great.

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2012 Reading List

Now in chronological order:

Trumps of Doom – Roger ZelaznyLots of Books
Blood of Amber – Roger Zelazny
Sign of Chaos – Roger Zelazny
Knight of Shadows – Roger Zelazny
Prince of Chaos – Roger Zelazny
The Last Light of the Sun – Guy Gavriel Kay
Look to Windward – Iain M. Banks
Here Comes Trouble – Michael Moore
The High King’s Tomb – Kristen Britain
22-11-63 – Stephen King
Trujillo – Lucius Shepard
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt
The Fear Index – Robert Harris
Solar – Ian McEwan
Matter – Iain M. Banks
Blonde Bombshell – Tom Holt
The Cold Moon – Jeffrey Deaver
A Bend in the Road – Nicholas Sparks
The Shadow of the Torturer – Gene Wolfe
The Claw of the Conciliator – Gene Wolfe
The Sword of the Lictor – Gene Wolfe
The Citadel of the Autarch – Gene Wolfe
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
Iron Council – China Miéville
One of our Thursdays is Missing – Jasper Fforde
A Son of the Circus – John Irving
The Mist – Stephen King
The State of the Art – Iain M. Banks
Blaze – Richard Bachman
Alex & Me – Irene M. Pepperberg
The Coma – Alex Garland
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Caves of Steel – Isaac Asimov
The Man Who Was Thursday – G. K. Chesterton
Raw Spirit – Iain Banks

2012 was a highly varied reading year. As always I’m far below the number of books that I wanted to read, but I guess the times when I was an unmarried, jobless, friendless, carefree gal of 15 who didn’t generally bother with homework won’t be coming back. Good riddance, I say. If I had to pick my favourite book of the year I would have to say Look to Windward by the always amazing Iain M. Banks, with The Coma by Alex Garland a close second.

Worst book of the year is a little harder to pick. The competition is so thick that you could cut it with a chainsaw… and probably should. I guess I should nominate A Son of the Circus by John Irving, just because everyone keeps carrying on about how bloody brilliant his books are. Well, they aren’t, at least not all of them. Second place is a tie between Nicky Sparks and Jeff Deaver for brain-numbing, cliché-laden awfulness and abuse of the English language in general. And Kristen Britain… well… is Kristen Britain. See my review of First Rider’s Call for more details.

I also had a few firsts, authors which I’d been meaning to read since forever but never got around to, and those were one and all delightful. Chesterton, Zelazny, Wolfe, Chandler, Miéville and (I am ashamed to say) that giant of both fiction and non-fiction, Asimov, are all worth a read. Not a single turd there.

For now I’m still in the middle of Raw Spirit by Iain Banks, which I am enjoying way too much to be envious of someone who got paid to taste all of Scotland’s great single malt whiskies. Okay, maybe a little. But it’s a really great read. And I shall use it to bolster my next reading list – after all, I can legitimately claim that I read it in 2012 and 2013.

He’s already mad, at least let him keep his pants!

So, on Friday we went to watch 2012. (Yes, I’m healthy enough to go to the cinema, so I must also be healthy enough to blog.)

To begin with: I like Roland Emmerich. Not because I see it as my patriotic duty or because he and me were, by some freak accident, born in the same country, but because I think he can be a damn fine director. Note that I say “can be”.

I loved Stargate and The Day After Tomorrow and 10.000 BC and I also have a soft spot for Eight Legged Freaks, which he only produced. But it appears that Roland Emmerich is a man at one with the universe, always intent on balancing things out, and so he gave us The Patriot and Independence Day and Godzilla. Balance. The good and the bad. The man would make one hell of a Buddhist.

Anyway. 2012:

The trailer was, to put it in one word: awesome. It had great music, it had pretty CGI, it had a giraffe. What more can you ask for?

A movie that is good. How about that?

Was 2012 a bad movie? Well… not quite. But it wasn’t good either. To come back to the topic of balance: apparently Roland Emmerich has given up on the idea of making good and bad movies in equal amounts and just thought “what the hell,  I’ll be more efficient if I just make a movie that has an homogeneous mix of good and bad scenes”.

Spiffing idea.

I won’t go into detail on the plot, since I don’t feel up to unravelling that particular gordian knot so soon after recovering from the flu, but let’s look at some specific character moments and motivations, just for kicks.

John Cusack plays Jackson Curtis, the man of a thousand coincidences. Not only does he either accidentally meet or already know all the major players of this movie (okay, so three of them are his wife and children), his character also constantly gets abused in most horrific ways by the scriptwriter (hey, wait, that’s Mr. Emmerich too.) To say once, and only once, that it would be a terrible coincidence for a little published writer like Jackson Curtis to make it on the ark ships and then for that guy to actually make it on the ark… well that is already pushing the powers of cliché to the breaking point, but Dr. Adrian Helmsley (played by Serenity-Evil-Übervillain Chiwetel Ejiofor) insists on repeating this line as if he had swallowed a broken record player.  Speaking of cliché…

Dr. Adrian Helmsley: Mr. Curtis, there is only one way to save us all. You have to go on a suicide death dive!

Jackson Curtis: Okay. Death is better than staying with my stupid ex-wife, who’s already smooching me although I let her current husband drop into an oversized gearbox five minutes ago.

Dr. Adrian Helmsley: Your sacrifice will be remembered. I have the president’s daughter with me here, because she’s black, like me, and she didn’t have any action scenes so far. She’ll do the remembering for me, because I can only remember one li… What would be the chances of Jackson Curtis, a little known author, ending up on…

President’s Daughter: Shut up. But I do think you’re kind of cute. Also you’re the only black guy in this flick that isn’t somebody’s dad.

Jackson Pollock Curtis: Hey… guys. I already said yes. Anyway… can I take my kid?

Adrian Healy Helmsley: Sure, of course you can…

Everyone (including the drowning Russian chick that the movie is going to forget about after this scene): What?!?

Jackson Samuel: Well, I thought suicide death dives were the perfect thing to build up a better dad-son-relationship kinda thing.

Everyone (including drowned and now zombified Russian chick): Oh, okay.

Michael Jackson and his son dive through endless tunnels.

(V.O. as they dive): Who was stupid enough anyway to build these arks in a way that you can only start up the engine if all the doors are closed?

Adrian Helmsley sneaks away with an embarrassed facial expression while everyone is trying to figure that one out.

Meanwhile under water on the death dive: Holding your air for so long seems impossible, especially since the movie insists on cutting back to the bridge of the ark for extended dialogue sequences, but they make it to the jammed hydraulics chamber. Bits of Gordon, the kid’s stepdad referenced earlier in this scene, are floating in the murky water.

Jackson Five: Gurgle blubber grargh. (Kid hold the flashlight so that I can see what I’m doing.)

Kid: Blubber, shlubber bubble gurgle. (Okay dad. Will do. Am I blue in the face?)

Jackson Curtis: Gurgle. (Yes.)

Kid:… (Has drowned.)

The ark slams into Mount Everest and everybody on board dies. Since the other two arks are full of multimillionaires, politicians, telephone sanitizers and hairdressers, mankind goes extinct.

Yes, anyway. That took a little longer than I thought it would. Back to the real movie.

I could point out other character and plot inconsistencies by the bucketload. Like the Russian chick that seems to be superglued to her boyfriend. At least he tries to ditch her twice in the movie and they always kind of end up together again, or at least in close physical proximity. Or the fact that the Italian prime minister chooses to stay behind with his people and face the coming apocalypse only armed with his faith in God. That’s Berlusconi for you, Roland Emmerich nailed him perfectly. Or… well, there is actually just one more character that I’d like to talk about.

Charlie Frost aka Woody-nobody-ever-gives-me-serious-parts-Harrelson. Now, here’s your classical mad conspiracy theorist. No one is ever going to do that part better than Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory, but let’s give Mr. Harrelson points for trying. Nice touches all around. And they even resisted the lure of having a motorcycle-out-racing-the-pyroclastic-explosion-sequence (if you’ve seen the movie you’ll know what I mean).  But, and here’s the thing that really, majorly pissed me off:

They have a character like that, who’s clearly off his rocker, who’s kind of funny and tragic and also a little heroic. And they have to ruin his last scene, his death, by doing a f**king ass crack joke. Seriously. Words fail me. He’s already mad, at least let him keep his pants on when he kicks the bucket.

So *takes deep breath* enough ranting. 2012 is, despite all its flaws, a good movie.

Okay. A mediocre movie. It didn’t make me want to kill myself. Jonas agrees. For all its faults it somehow manages to be decent.

With another composer and a slightly better script it might even have been a good movie. The right ideas are all there. And it even manages to look good, except for everything surrounding the suicide death dive, which is out-of-proportion bad. Come to think of it… a new cut, eliminating that entire useless last minute complication, would probably already save the movie.

This one will never enter even the top 100 of my favourite movies, but it won’t make it into the worst 100 either. I don’t regret seeing it. At least I got a review out of it. And it has a giraffe in a spacesuit. Sweet.