I regret to review a Christmas movie

Two things I need to state up front:

  1. We all know made-for-TV Christmas movies are dreck.
  2. I rarely feel the need to dump on someone else’s creative work, at least not publicly like this.

However.

Last night my Lovely First Wife and I chose to watch The Knight Before Christmas, a Netflix original. It looked to be nothing more than a typically flaccid, vapid holiday flick, and yet it was so much less. It was horrific. It was lazy. It was an offense to the human tradition of storytelling.

tl;dr: Sir Cole, a 14th-c. knight, is transported by a crone for no good reason to the present day to complete his “quest,” whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. He is taken in by Brooke, a high school science teacher who nevertheless lives in a huge home WITH A GUEST HOUSE. I won’t spoil the ending for you.

At least he’s cute.

 

We begin with Brooke confronting a student about her lackluster performance on a “midterm” and being told by the girl that her boyfriend dumped her and she’s been distraught. Oh, says Brooke, true love is a chimera and although they’ve been taught by society to look for a knight in shining armor to rescue them, that’s a fool’s errand.

Hold that thought.

One never expects historicity from these things, but you get the feeling that the scriptwriter and the producers deliberately avoided knowing anything about the 14th century, starting with Sir Cole in all probability not speaking a lick of English, and certainly not modern English, and especially certainly not with a plummy BBC Received Pronunciation accent.

Or glass windows in castles. Or Christmas trees being a 19th-c. fad. Or hogs in tubular steel pens.[1]

Nor did they seem particularly interested in physics, for that matter: after Brooke runs into Sir Cole in her car, he simply bounces off into the snow with no injuries sustained either to him—or to his cuirass. Snow comes and goes depending on the exigencies of plot with no impact on the ensuing action. Cole whacks down a Christmas tree in one stroke, inspiring another, random man to do the same (never mind why Christmas trees are growing in the lot).

Logical human behavior is never a hallmark[2] of these movies, but merciful heavens—within 24 hours of his arrival in 2019, Cole

  • knows how to wrap himself in a towel after asking for a bath[3]
  • expresses no astonishment at anything he sees other than a couple of clumsy “where’s that music coming from” gags
  • is seen operating a TV remote the morning after his arrival
  • apparently picks up enough modern lingo during his one night of binge-watching TV to be able to understand Brooke’s 21st-c. code (like “binge-watching”)
  • does not think pants are odd

Brooke’s friends express mild concern about her taking in an oddly-dressed and clearly mentally ill man with no identification, but no one makes any effort to get help for him or to find out who he is or where he came from. (On the contrary, Brooke’s sister cheerfully provides him with a wardrobe from her “boutique” in the mall.)

Script failures littered the landscape:

  • Brooke’s cheating ex is seen in the background a couple of times, but vanishes from the script without even one snide scene
  • an icky neighbor is introduced, but is used only once to try to flirt unsuccessfully with Cole
  • the crone shows up once when Cole first arrives at the Christmas Village, but never again (although I think she’s in the background at the big charity event—maybe a victim of the cutting room floor?)
  • the girls who go outside in a blizzard to practice their “swordplay” who—after being warned to stick close to the house in a blizzard—nevertheless go all the way to a park with a not-quite-frozen lake
  • Brooke willingly gives Cole the keys to her car (presuming he “remembers” how to drive); he can put it into reverse and drive, but cannot manage to steer it into a wide-open parking space rather than onto the sidewalk
  • the whole premise that Cole has until midnight on Christmas Eve to “complete his quest” is completely lost; only the occasional date thrown on the screen reminds us that time is running out—for what?
  • the idea that Brooke assumes Cole has amnesia also vanishes; he’s just a cute man who lives in her guest house and meanders through her holiday chores
  • late insertion of David, the single dad who works two jobs to support his four kids, being the recipient of Cole’s (offscreen) fundraising[4] despite being present at Brooke’s fupping Christmas Eve fundraiser the express purpose of which is to raise money for people like Dave

And most of all, the entire movie gives the lie to Brooke’s advice to her student at the opening. Indeed, Brooke backtracks on the advice near the end when her student bounces up to her and tells her that she told her boyfriend to take a hike.[5]

All in all, the thing was a disaster. It was incoherent, even by the extremely low standards we have for these things, and it gave the feeling that it only took a week to film. The frankly amateurish quality of the script was appalling.

So could this movie have been saved? How about this:

  • clearly define Cole’s need for this “quest” and make it his paramount concern[6]
  • define Cole’s chivalry as solidly of the 14th-c., with all the misogyny involved, i.e., he’s cute and he’s helpful, but there are limits to his sensibilities
  • play off Brooke’s culturally-ingrained “knight in shining armor” complex to create the romantic tension: she wants to love him, but…
  • embed Brooke’s crappy ex and David the single dad more into the plot, thus giving us three versions of what a man can/should be
  • end it with Cole returning to the 14th-c. and Brooke realizing that everything she actually values in a man is right there in David, the single dad

Here’s my point: if I can come up with a more interesting and still sappily romantic plot on the spot, why is Netflix greenlighting dreck like this without demanding that the entire team go back to the writing table?

—————

[1] Or the bubonic plague.

[2] See what I did there?

[3] To be fair, this was simply to show off Josh Whitehouse’s lissome 6’ 2” body. I’m amazed we didn’t get a bathtub scene.

[4] How?? He knows no one other than the people standing right there around him.

[5] Which I realize is the whole point of these movies. Smash the patriarchy.

[6] No clue what this might involve, since the whole premise is idiotic, but I bet we could come up with something less lame than rescuing a kid from a frozen pond or tackling a pickpocket.

Lichtenbergian Goals, a quick review of 2018

Every year the Lichtenbergian Society holds its Annual Meeting on or before the Winter Solstice, and part of the Agenda for that meeting means confronting the projects you proposed to work on for the previous year.

Last year, I succeeded at every single one of my goals, one of which was the publication of Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, and so, shockingly, I was stripped of my chairmanship.

This year I have done better, i.e., I have not accomplished a single Proposed Effort, as they are officially known. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Become a self-promoting whore

Following Turff’s lead in his successful goal to become a “corporate tool,” I was going to acquire the skills needed to sell the book and become a speaker/workshop leader all over the place, up to and including a TED Talk. I did not do this. In any way. Ugh.

Peter & the Starcatcher

Well, I did do this, but then again, how could I not?

Labyrinth fixes

I had — and still have — a short list of labor intensive projects that need to be taken care of in the labyrinth.  I did not get those done.

William Blake’s Inn

I was supposed to be pursuing a production of William Blake’s Inn for its world premiere.  It never happened.

new music?

Nothing. I wrote not a single note all year.

Ironically, I closed out last year’s post about these Proposed Efforts by bemoaning the fact all of these were so easily achievable that I was likely to be censured again. No chance of that this year!

Nor have I even begun to think about Proposed Efforts for 2019. Cras melior est.

A SHOCKING DEVELOPMENT [insert flashing light icon here]

Well.

Saturday night was the Lichtenbergian Society’s Annual Meeting, and before I could even call us to order that wretched scum W. Jeffery Bishop introduced a resolution to strip me of my chairmanship, a position I have held with honor for the past ten years.  His reasons?  Oh, something about accomplishing all my goals blah blah blah.

For what it’s worth, here’s the complete text:

WHEREAS

In the Year of Our Lord 2007 a group of like-minded individuals came together to form a Society to be known thereafter as the LICHTENBERGIAN SOCIETY, and

WHEREAS

These individuals set forth a CHARTER in which they solemnly pledged and swore an oath to further the renown and uphold the honor of their guiding inspiration, Master Procrastinator GEORG CHRISTOPH LICHTENBERG, by “putting off whatever we can in such a way as to be in solidarity with our fellow Lichtenbergians,” and

WHEREAS

Our ILLUSTRIOUS CHAIR, Dale Lyles, has VIOLATED HIS SACRED VOW to uphold the tenets of Lichtenbergianism, TO WIT:

CHARGE NUMBER 1: The Chair has on consecutive years achieved EVERY STATED PROPOSED EFFORT announced at the previous Annual Meeting (GUILTY)

CHARGE NUMBER 2: The Chair has PROFITED SHAMELESSLY through the exploitation of the Sacred Society’s name, including the publication (various) of blog posts, articles, books, broadcast media, &c for the sake of advancing his own personal notoriety and for his personal financial gain (GUILTY)

CHARGE NUMBER 3: The Chair has violated the Sacred Code of the Charter and of the Brotherhood of the Society by laying bare its SACRED RITUALS AND SECRET CEREMONIES (GUILTY), and

WHEREAS

Craig Humphrey has shown himself to be a MODEL LICHTENBERGIAN through his refusal to meet even a single goal on consecutive years, and through his failure to attend numerous meetings, including the required Annual Meetings, due to his imprisonment and other such excuses, and through his failure to exploit or profit from his membership in this Society in any perceivable way

NOW THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED

That we as a UNIFIED BODY do hereby REMOVE OUR CHAIR, DALE LYLES, from his illustrious office, and IMPEACH HIM, and do hereby beseech him to AMEND HIS WAYS and return to the TRUE PATH of Lichtenbergianism, as established by our namesake, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, and that we do also hereby APPOINT the Esteemed and Most Honorable Craig Humphrey to serve as Chair in his stead.

SWORN TO AND AGREED this 16th Day of December, the Year of Our Lord 2017 THE ESTEEMED MEMBERS OF THE LICHTENBERGIAN SOCIETY

 

Fine. Whatever.  Putz.

I hauled out the Charter and pointed to the very first Article, stating that “The Purpose of this SOCIETY shall be the promulgation and promotion of Lichtenbergianism,” and I alone had done that this year, but those ungrateful schmucks voted to defenestrate me anyway and install Craig Humphrey in my place, just because Craig accomplished nothing this year.

Pfft, I say.  Pfft.  And also feh.

I’m sure I wish Craig well in his future career as Chair.  I will note for the general, though, that I do not see a Report on the Annual Meeting on our official website, nor did our so-called “Chair” take the leftover coals from the fire to ship to members who were not in attendance.

Pfft.

So here are my Lichtenbergian Proposed Efforts for 2018:

Become a self-promoting whore

Following Turff’s lead in his successful goal to become a “corporate tool,” I am going acquire the skills needed to sell the book and become a speaker/workshop leader all over the place, up to and including a TED Talk.

Peter & the Starcatcher

Auditions Jan 7–8.  Performances Mar 1–11.

Labyrinth fixes

I have a short list of labor intensive projects that need to be taken care of in the labyrinth.  I will get those done after Peter is over and when the weather warms up.

William Blake’s Inn

I am pursuing the production of William Blake’s Inn for its world premiere.  In fact, I am heading to a meeting in about 50 minutes to begin those discussions.

new music?

Since I will finish the music for the Mar 17 Southern Arc Dance performance before January, I think I will cast about for another project.  It may be Southern Arc’s RED DRESS come back to life, or it might be something bigger.  SUN TRUE FIRE, again, or another project I’ve been knocking around for a while but haven’t named because of copyright/derivative works issues.

I will say that it looks like I am as likely to be as successful with this list of Proposed Efforts as I was this past year.  Dammit. Whatever happened to goals I couldn’t possibly achieve?

About those Lichtenbergian goals for 2017

Well, this is embarrassing.

At the risk of exposing myself to [even more] Censure at the Lichtenbergian Annual Meeting in a couple of weeks, I would like to review my goals for this past year and evaluate how well I did.  If you want a full explication of each one, see here.

Lichtenbergianism

A carryover from 2016: finish the book, keep the website going.  Check.

Backstreet Arts writing project

Another carryover, which had to be carried over because Backstreet didn’t open until Jan of this year. Check.

SUN TRUE FIRE

Cras melior est.  Didn’t do a lick of work on it.

Peter & the Starcatcher

I didn’t name this last year because it hadn’t been announced.  On track, though not as much as I’d like.

3 Old Men

Continue as Placement Lead, design another new burn. Check.  Wanted to plan to go to Burning Man itself, given the theme of Radical Ritual, but no one else seemed interested.

Unsilent Night

Check.

Establish a routine

Check.

See how embarrassing this is? I basically accomplished all my goals.  Crap.  The Annual Meeting is going to be a bloodbath.

In other news…

I’m double-posting here, because that’s what us self-marketers do.

From Lichtenbergianism.com:

It’s almost here! On Friday, November 17, you will be able to give me money via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other venues!

In return, of course, you will be receive your very own copy of Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, first edition!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

As a special promotional deal, anyone who buys the book from Amazon on launch day will receive a couple of bonus gifts. From me, you will receive an autographed Official Lichtenbergianism Precepts Bookmark and an invitation to join the Lichtenbergianism: Doing the Work group on Facebook, where you will have access to my advice and guidance on any of your ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS.

Also, several of my friends are offering freebies of their own: things like chapters from one of their books and other goodies.  You’ll have the opportunity to request one of these.  (A page listing these goodies is forthcoming.)

How do you avail yourself of this treasure trove?

  1. Buy the book on Friday, November 17, on Amazon.
  2. Email your purchase receipt or a screenshot of same to dale@Lichtenbergianism.com.
  3. I’ll send you a link to the form to claim your bonus items. Easy!

This is so exciting! Start spreading the news.

Another new day

You may recall that one of my goals this year was to establish a daily work schedule so that I have more structure to force myself into working.

There was no point in trying to do this until this week because reasons, but now I’m on day three of said schedule and I believe it’s working.

Step one: clear the desk — again — so that a) I have a clear view of my desktop calendar; and b) I have an actual work surface for one of my major projects.

What desktop calendar is that, you ask?  This desktop calendar:

Here it is in situ:

You may be astonished that I am using a paper and pencil scheduling device, but I can explain.  This is the desktop calendar I used to use at Newnan Crossing and at the Department of Education to do my planning, and it was very efficient.  Yes, I still put things on my phone or my computer, but this was a handy way to jot down meetings, phone calls, etc.  Mostly it kept me on track.

I used to buy these in pads from Levenger, but they stopped making them, and so I designed my own, if by “design” you mean “recreate exactly.”  I still have a couple in storage, and truly I don’t know why I had this one on my desk here in the study, since I don’t really have a lot to schedule these days.

Until now.  Like all good ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS, it’s a start.  I have created out of nothing a list of things that I want/need to get done, and I’ve faked a schedule: blog here and at Lichtenbergianism.com; work on Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy; eat lunch and do the crossword puzzle; walk the labyrinth; plan for [redacted] and William Blake’s Inn.[1]

That schedule will change, of course, but so far it’s driven me to work without too much procrastination.  I’m writing this blog post, in fact, because the schedule says I must.  Running a little late, but I can whack this out and then get back to work on the chapter on SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION.

With assistance[2,] of course.

—————

[1] No, there’s not a production in the offing.  I’m just working on it.

[2] For differing values of “assistance.”

Lichtenbergian Goals, 2017

First, a clarification.  These are technically not “Lichtenbergian goals.”  In our official ritual/agenda, they are “Proposed Efforts.”  A subtle difference, and a valid distinction: if we don’t get around to doing one of them, we haven’t missed a goal.  We just didn’t get around to it.

With that in mind, here are next year’s Proposed Efforts.

Lichtenbergianism

I’m carrying forward my 2016 goal to finish Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy and find a publisher for it. It’s just sheer laziness that prevented me from achieving that this past year. As I move forward, I will continue posting chapters to this website (although see below about Lichtenbergianism.com) and about my efforts to implement the strategies outlined in The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published [EGGYBP].

I will also continue building Lichtenbergianism.com, both through the blog and the introductory material.

One of the strategies in EGGYBP is to establish yourself as a speaker/workshop leader, both of which I am extremely qualified to do. I’ve already started putting out feelers and hope to start this aspect of the project soon.

Backstreet Arts writing project

Another carryover: work with Kim Ramey at Backstreet Arts on establishing a writers’ group for her audience. Basic journaling, story posters, whole books, compilations of stories—I’ll start wherever I can and go from there.

SUN TRUE FIRE

Not really a carryover, but if I’m going to compose at all, it might as well be this piece.

[REDACTED] at Newnan Theatre Company

Since it has not been officially announced, I won’t name the play I’m directing for the 2017-18 season at Newnan Theatre Company. Suffice it to say that with auditions in Jan 2018, I will spend most of 2017 preparing for the show.

For this production I am going to pull what we used to call a “full Dale” and which everywhere else is called “standard operating procedure,” i.e., full designs for costumes, sets, and lights, with individuals who are not me in charge of production. Production meetings; crew recruitment; maybe even classes to teach people how to do these things. Reach out to sewing fanatics via Jo-Ann perhaps; reach out to the artists at Backstreet; find people who aren’t involved and drag them into it.

3 Old Men

I want to continue to lead 3 Old Men, of course, but now we have another goal for the year. Burning Man’s theme for 2017 (Aug 24–Sep 4) is Radical Ritual—how can we not at least attempt to plan to go? So there’s that.

I also want to continue as Placement Lead for Alchemy and Euphoria, now that I’ve had greatness thrust upon me. Especially if we move to new land again: I want the opportunity to design a burn that becomes a home for years.

Unsilent Night

This one just developed last week when I was trying to explain the music I had used in the labyrinth for the Tour of Homes, Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night. Years ago I had tried to get in touch with Mr. Kline to see if he’d allow us to do an Unsilent Night parade in Newnan, but never heard from him. When I looked the music up to show people, I was super pleased to see that Unsilent Night now has its own webpage, and that indeed they were encouraging parades all over.

I’ve already made contact and started a Facebook group to begin planning for the event next December.

Establish a routine

I got out of a daily schedule this past summer and fall, so I want to reestablish specific periods of work each day.

Seven goals, some of which have massive subgoals themselves. We’ll see how I do.

Onward!

A fun Abortive Attempt

Remember these?

Here’s one thing I figured out to do with them:

A lovely little package!

From the back:

Oooh, let’s open it!

Ta-da!  Lichtenbergianism Precept Cards!

One side has the Precept and the logo, and the other side…

…has the And so… section from each chapter in Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy.

They’re kind of a pain in the butt to make, but if you’d like a set, let me know.

Lichtenbergian goals 2016: a review

For those of you who are just joining us, the Lichtenbergian Society is the group of men who are my soul brothers in creative procrastination. Every year we have an Annual Meeting around the fire in the labyrinth, and part of the ritual is that we propose our Efforts for the coming year, which our Recording Secretary duly engrosses in the journal.

The other part of that process, of course, is to have this year’s Efforts read back to us and to confess our success or failure. Cras melior est is the appropriate liturgical response to any failure.

Since the Annual Meeting is this Friday, it’s time to prepare my soul for the ordeal. Let’s see how I did in 2016.

Here’s the original post, if you’re interested.

Lichtenbergianism

I wanted to finish Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy this year. Somehow that did not happen. Something to do with procrastination, I think.

On the plus side, I’ve made headway in my own head towards thinking about getting the thing actually published. Part of that effort towards world domination was establishing Lichtenbergianism.com, which is not nothing.

But actually finishing the book? No.

3 Old Men

If my goal was to expand my burner theme camp to include a 50-foot square arena for “yelling at the hippies,” well… cras melior est. We didn’t have enough campers at Euphoria in May, and for Alchemy, we didn’t have enough space.

But there in the last paragraph of last year’s post, look:

I also want to continue working with Flashpoint Artists Initiative, the nonprofit which runs Euphoria/Alchemy, as a small-time volunteer on various projects.

Ha. I was certainly accomplishing that goal, doing my usual webmaster volunteering for the art fundraiser and even going so far as to volunteer to be Co-Lead for Placement, right up until the morning that I woke up one morning to the email saying that I was THE LEAD FOR PLACEMENT, KENNETH.

So if my goal was to remain a “small-time volunteer,” I failed miserably. You can read about it here.

Backstreet Arts

My goal was to work with Kim Ramey as she established a public art studio for the homeless/underserved population here in Newnan.

Cras melior est. I lent a sympathetic ear to Kim Ramey and offered what I hope was helpful advice, but mostly I was missing in action. However, she has forged ahead and this past month the studio (behind Bridging the Gap) passed its inspection and will soon be open for business. I hope I can get my act together enough to volunteer down there and create a space for writing and publishing.

???

This was my Undefined Universe Project, in which I decided not to work on music which had not been specifically commissioned for a performance. As I said in the post,

So my goal is to allow the Universe to send me a project which is attached to actual production.

Cras melior est, although that’s on the Universe, right? I did decide to pick back up on SUN TRUE FIRE on Retreat (here and here), but otherwise the Universe certainly gave me the finger. Oh well. It’s not as if I haven’t been busy or creative in other ways.  Which is the point of TASK AVOIDANCE in the first place, right?

Onward to 2017!