Cure For Wellness

A + B = F**K

Here we are: it's suddenly June.

The vfx tunnel has been a long and squirmy one this time — an epic five-monther, as opposed to my usual in-and-out crunch-time contracts. Why? A bunch of reasons, but mostly to get the chance to put on my big-boys' supe pants for a change; getting deeply involved in a film, as opposed to cruising across the finish line with a couple of shots to my name.

It's been.... fun, I guess. Different. A learning-curve. An eye-opener. A huge boost to my vfx skillset (I can't wait to comp again, now that I've tasted the other side). But for all those things, it's also been an experience that's given my usual work-life balance quite a solid kicking. No complaints, if I'm being honest. More just a statement of fact: my 2016 has mostly been about a film. There hasn't been the time for much else. (See the above pic for instance - my actual work desk right now. Hell, why not. Does a man really need much more than tequila, Spotify, and a wacom pen to enjoy a long Friday night stuck at his desk?)

Right about now is usually where I bang on about 'hoping it's all been worth it'. This one? As always, hard to tell, looking at it from the limited window us vfx types look out at the bigger motion picture, but it feels like it might be? Who knows. By the time it comes out, the aches in my bones, the slithers in the dark, and the wrap-party hangover will be such a distant memory. But I do think it might be. A unique project to have been part of, a director I've really enjoyed seeing work his craft, and a film whose story and content has taken us all to places of darkness in ways that feel almost.... refreshing... after working so many PG-13 comic book movies.

A little bit of dark-and-evil can be good for you sometimes.

My only regret in all this is the foolish (in hindsight) prediction that there'd be all this time available after hours to pitch a finished manuscript to a pile of literary agents. Nope. Nada.

And that's okay too. What's been interesting is that over the last week, I picked up 'Winners' again for the first time in a few months. And you know what? The extended rest has done us both some good. I've had the chance to read it almost fresh. Sink into it like I'd sink into any other novel. The verdict? Not bad. Still the polish I knew it would need, but far less than it could have been. Hell, I've quite enjoyed reading it. Messy pockets aside, it's got pace. I still like the characters. I don't hate the story. I wanted to continue reading. The only times I groaned were at some of the horrendous typos, and the occasional piece of dialogue-lameness, things that'll be long gone before y'all get your eyeballs anywhere near them.

In short, all good. I'll finish up on the movie soon, and take hold of something I'm not just 'seeing through' : there's a genuine confidence in the book now. After such a solid rest, I know exactly what the book is (and isn't), the positives far outweighing the negatives. I just hope I can capture and infect my upcoming pitch phase with that very same enthusiasm.

Wish me luck. Both with the pitching, and the wrap-party hangover.

D


Winners

'Winners' : done deal

You heard me right.
I think I've finished my second book, Winners.

Well, 'finished' is a tough call to make at this point, so how about: 'finished... enough...'?

Oh, who am I kidding; there'll be more work on it, especially once the querying gets going. But for now—minor moppings-up and a grammar/punctuation pass aside—I'm pretty happy with where it's at. Time to let it settle, give it and my brain a rest from one another, and to start throwing the first 10000 words in front of the right pairs of professional eye-balls.

So what's next?

Funny you should ask. I thought I'd be moving on to this great and crazy idea that'd been percolating in the back of my head for years, however it looks as though fate has other plans.

All it took was one of those long walks home, on a day where I'd (okay, I'm going to let you in on a personal secret here) set my Spotify app not to broadcast what I was listening to, just so I could play (and enjoy, with great shame) the soundtrack from Frozen, and suddenly, a fresh story materialised into my head. By the time Elsa belted the final strains of 'Let It Go', I had the bare bones of a story tapped furiously into Notes.app, where it's since become the thing I've thought about and fleshed-out during every foot-commute since.

The book is tentatively called Beth & Stevie, and it's a different kind of love story.

I'm hesitant in saying too much more about it yet. Just know that I'm just as excited about it as I was at the beginning of Winners, and despite it being very early days, can't wait to start smashing out drafts. Until then, I've got a serious amount of reading to do. Where my last two books have been very much the product of personal history and imagination, while this is still true, there's a serious research component involved this time should I ever want to bring the outline to any respectful, three-dimensional life.

More on that later.

For now, you might have also noticed that the ol' vanity domain looks a little different. Take a look around, marvel at the wonders of WYSIWYG/shortcode template editing tools in 2016, and make sure you're all signed up to the all new mailing-list. (Not sure what I'm doing with this yet, though likely just very occasional updates if/when something amazing starts moving with one of the manuscripts.)

Oh, and if anyone needs me, I'm heading back in on a movie gig next week. Should be a good one - stay tuned. :)


demislw - not dead

Report Of My Death : Greatly Exaggerated

No, I'm not dead.

I made a pact with the devil regarding my second book: "Winners", and opted not to write a single word anywhere apart from the draft that is now sitting in my Scrivener being picked-apart, rewritten, and polished.

It's in great shape, if I may be so bold. Way further along than the first was after the first draft; a win for my own education/development, even if it's still a long way from sitting on your collective Kindles. Can't wait to share it. While I'm proud of having finished "The Brave" (still querying!) I've planned this second one to be a far different beast. "The Brave" was me determined to exorcise a whole bunch of autobiographical ghosts, trying to write a good book but not thinking of where it'd go when it was all over. "Winners" is me determined to simply tell a good story - a cracking yarn - very conscious that yes, I'd like this published, thank you very much (vs. 'whatever - I just want to finish a novel'). Already I can see the difference in the eyes of any friend or colleague I corner with a beer and run through both pitches. With The Brave, they say "yeah... cool... " but sorta glaze.  With Winners, they smile and nod, and usually say "that'd make a great movie", followed by the customary follow-up "have you thought about self-publishing?" (Me: "Yes. And no." Insert long-winded reply about having faith in the additional manuscript-honing talent that pursuing traditional/hybird path brings...)

That wasn't all I've been up to. Two short movie gigs (both Marvel properties, not-so-oddly enough). Quite a lot of travel (Spanish mountain hikes, fishing on Norwegian fjords etc.) not to mention coding and managing the tech/site/social end of Cat's epic East London dining/delivery pop-up project, which has all gone well.

So sorry, vanity domain. I've neglected you.

However, the near future already has its series of buzzwords: declutter. Slash and burn. Simplify. I'm quite busy shuffling a number of things around ( / out ) of my day-to-day/week-to-week at the moment, in favour of a cleaner, more focused state. The wind's been blowing that way for a while. This site will stay, of course. It kinda has to. Those were the rules, and those haven't changed.

Hopefully I'll be back to posting semi-regular again, and not just this pseudo-journal personal crap either. Maybe.

 

But not yet.

Enjoy your summer, folks, as I'm sure as hell enjoying mine... (August : Rome, Morocco...)

 

Watch this space.


demislw - when good hangovers go bad

When Good Hangovers Go Bad

The night started so innocently, but don't they all?

We've all taken part in an epic evening where the intent was (and remained) evil from start to finish, but this wasn't one of those. No, the nights out with the most horrendous aftermaths have a lot in common with effective, successful serial-killers: it's always the quiet, respectable ones you need to keep an eye on.

This was back in Sydney, toward the end of '11. Some friends of ours had invited us to a one-off family celebration, a special night for a unique milestone : all three generations of women in the family were celebrating their thirtieth, sixtieth and ninetieth birthdays that year. For extra points, the 'thirty' component belonged to a set of non-identical twins, dear friends of ours for years. The roundness of those numbers — their pattern, their alignment — was impossible to ignore, especially for a family renown for bringing together their wide circle of friends and extended family to celebrate far less auspicious-looking events.

The clan leaders booked out a great restaurant by the harbour, and invited about a hundred people to what looked and felt a lot like a wedding (minus the happy couple). Multiple tables full of well-dressed people, many of whom didn't know one another, all loosened up with the generous "bottomless" champagne and whites the respectable per-head had bought us.

Now, I know what you're thinking : already, that sounds dangerous. And yes, you're right: any event that can be compared to a wedding banquet in terms of the expected alcohol volume, and the whole 'your glass is always full thanks to attentive waiters' factor should have had us predicting some kind of fall-out the next day. We knew it too. Duh. I'd planned ahead. I'd eaten a big lunch. I'd thrown back a lot of water during the afternoon. I'd come up with a strategy ("Stick with champagne and white wine, only. No beer. No spirits. No mixing, period. Then, water every second drink") that, by all accounts, remains a sound and worthy alcoholic mantra even today.

In short, I was prepared for the worst. Despite the precautions, it was never far from my mind that this was still, technically, a 'family gathering', and that such heavy preparation was likely overkill. The elderly were to be well represented at this party, as well plenty of children. It's not like we were heading out on a stag night — there was always going to be a certain lid on festivities, no matter how heavy those waiters were going to pour.

The last thing I remember with any clarity was of the few minutes following the main course.

There were speeches. I think. There was definitely a piper — as in actual bagpipes — wandering around at one point, but even then that memory is a little watery. What I do know is that for the couple of hours prior to where the mental tape-recorder cut out, I'd stuck to the plan. White. Sparkling. Water. Very well behaved, albeit far too talkative.

Then, nothing.

Well, that's not entirely true. I have a single-image memory of sitting in the back seat of a taxi in the dark, and of not being able to focus on anything outside the window. That, and another single-image flash of our bedroom, of trying to make an impassioned point, the topic of which I have no solid recall.

My next memory was of what I always start off a Sunday morning hangover with: that pounding headache that wakes me up (like clockwork) somewhere very close to 7am.

(Side note : there's not much to be said about that headache. We all know that pain. It feels like death. It goes on and on. The only thing special about it and its attachment to The Most Disturbing Hangover I Ever Had was that none of the regular tricks and cures had any effect on it until much later than they would on any other Sunday hangover. No, not "after I finally ate something". Not even "somewhere around lunchtime". That bastard lingered all the way through until about 7pm, presumably the point where my liver had finally cleared enough debris to finally consider dealing with the paracetamol. Unheard of.)

I'm not one of those bed-bound hangover types. I get up. I jump in the shower. I pace around. I go for walks, breathe fresh air. Sometimes I even go for a bike ride. Nothing was different about that particular hangover. Yet. I got straight out of bed, wandered over to the other end of our apartment where the main bathroom was (the non-ensuite one). Cat's definitely a bed-bound hangover person. I figured if I was rolling a classic 7am up-and-at-'em routine, she was probably rolling her standard static/grumbly/anti-social routine as well. Meaning : I needed to clear the room, fast. I headed for the bathroom at the other end of the apartment.

Words can barely describe what I found next.

The best comparison would be to an aftermath scene in any modern zombie film: walls, floor, mirrors dolloped and splattered in red (vomit, not blood), the intricate spray-patterns only broken by the long, chaotic smears of hand and footprints. The handprints were the most mysterious. Sick and hungover as I was, I took the time to walk into the room and take a good look around at them, to try and figure it all out. Hell, there were even prints smeared all over the back of the door. WTF?

None of it made any sense. I was certain none of it was my handiwork, as I'd been drinking white and champagne all night, waters in between. Nothing to explain the redness of the puke, in any case. Perhaps Cat? But no; she'd have definitely woken me up at some point, either to complain about being that close to death, or the sheer volume of the liquid cacophony that would have been echoing out of that room and down the hallway at the time. Surely I couldn't have slept through that. Just how drunk had I been?

It wasn't long before the stench overpowered me, my body stepping in with a not-so-gentle reminder that I was both severely hungover myself, and a sympathetic vomiter. However, during that intimate first trip to the toilet bowl, I noticed more curiosities. There was a massive splash against the wall beside the toilet itself, far, far away from anywhere someone could hit by simply 'missing' the bowl, no matter how sick or uncoordinated. Then, after I'd finished emptying my own mostly-empty stomach (clear liquids only - I checked), a further mystery appeared when I closed the lid to the toilet : red vomit all over the cistern and the top of the toilet seat, and more handprints. Bizarre swirls.

Finally, a picture began to form. I imagine it's how those crime-scene investigators work; quietly assessing the scene, putting themselves into the mind of their imagined perp, reliving every action and reaction. Piece by piece I was seeing a chronology, a possible timeline, something of a sequence, the only one that all the jigsaw pieces would fit nicely into.

So far as I could figure, I'd passed out drunk not long after we got home, Cat fleeing the room, clearly unwell. She would have closed the bedroom door, cause she's nice (and wouldn't have wanted me to hear what came next). Perhaps she'd puked a little in the ensuite first, then, anticipating more, came down to the other bathroom, closing all doors behind her. By then she was desperate — she'd started the initial heaving just before she got to the bathroom (Exhibit: A - first spray of the floor just inside the door). The handprints near the light switch would have been the hand that covered the mouth as she ran, printing the wall as she switched the lights on. The ones on the back of the door? Her closing yet another door for sound-muffling purposes. The random spraying around the room between there and the toilet was explained by all this light-and-door business taking up far too much time. Yes. Definitely that. The footprints backed it up.

So far so good.

But then we get to the mysterious toilet/lid/wall combo. The only thing that fit that splatter pattern was this: upon making it to the toilet, now in a blind panic having started projectile vomiting over near the door, she was in too much of a hurry to notice the toilet lid was closed, puking anyway. The error would have been obvious immediately, though now deep into the heaving, she'd have been unlikely to stop the flow, open the lid, start again. She'd have kept spraying the whole time it took her to lift her head (hitting the cistern), turn slightly to the right to avoid being hit in the face on the lid's way up (spraying the wall in the odd location), then finally aiming the flow back to the bowl itself (explaining the remaining splatter range).

From there, the rest was obvious : down on her knees, the foot and handprints indicated someone at the drunken end of their tether trying to pull themselves upright, clean themselves off a little under the sink at the basin, then stumble off back toward the bedroom.

I had plenty to mull over during the shower that followed this initial investigation. My headache had really kicked in by then, but at least I wasn't feeling all that sick anymore. I took my time. A good, slow neck massage. Then, an attempt at some of the cleaning, before yet another shower after, to get that smell off me. Eventually I got into some fresh clothes and returned to the bedroom, to see what sort of terrible state Cat must be in. I mean, after all that, she must have been experiencing The Worst Hangover Ever herself.

Imagine my surprise.

Back in the bedroom, she wasn't only awake, she was fine. Not sick at all. A little tired, perhaps. Slight headache. Not too worse for wear. Having taken that temperature, I decided it was time to address the mess she'd made of the bathroom:

"Are you okay? I mean, you made a pretty serious mess in there."

A look of incredulity.

"Ummm… what do you mean, 'the mess I made in there'?"

She was laughing. I wasn't. That wasn't my mess. My central argument had always been the white/champagne strategy, and that what I was just slipping around in back there was something like a bold, fruity Cab Sav. I said as much.

"Great theory, professor, except the part where you were running up and down the tables at the end."

Huh?

"Remember? You and Nando, throwing back the leftovers in everyone's discarded glasses? I tried to stop you."

I was speechless. Shocked, even. Funny, because that one detail was nothing — NOTHING — compared to the story that then unfolded.

It seems my clever alcohol consumption strategy had failed. This business with Nando didn't sound like something I would do, but at the same time, didn't sound like something I wouldn't do, inebriated beyond a certain level. Given I was already certain I'd lost a few hours of memory (something that had only happened to me on a handful of occasions, ever), I was going to have to give her the benefit of the doubt, and accept her tale on face value.

According to numerous accounts of that night which I have collected since, the following happened during the three hour period (I'm assured I remained awake/conscious for) from the point where my memory drops out :

  • I broke from the plan, and moved from white to red wine.
  • Later, I moved from red wine to scotch.
  • Later still, "water in between" was replaced by tequila shots.
  • Once everyone was up on the dance floor, yes, Nando and I did run up and down the vacated dinner tables, throwing back whatever liquid we found in discarded glasses. (The way Nando remembers this, it was some kind of race.)
  • I did not refrain from joining the others on the dance-floor. When the DJ put on the 80s classic, 'What A Feeling' (from Flashdance), I not only performed a passable rendition of the dance moves from the film-clip, but even finished it off with that iconic move with the chair. Worse, I didn't skimp on the "pour ice water over myself" part either. The crowd had formed a circle around me.
  • As this was a family function — someone else's family, mind you — there was a moment where the entire extended clan tried to take a group photo (about forty people). The intention was for a 'family-only' shot. Apparently, I wanted to be in it too. Like, I really wanted to. Every time they tried to take it, I (physically, literally) dived into frame at the last second, ruining things. Eventually, they gave up trying to keep me out of the photo, and took a couple of photos with me in it. Then, all pretending things were done, Cat lead me away with a wink, whereby the entire family reassembled and took the REAL family photo. Those other shots with me in them survive. The expression on my face is another man's, someone I don't know.
  • I allegedly caused a bit of trouble in the taxi as well, but Cat has never gone into great detail about it.
  • Once we got home, I ranted for an hour about how much I loved this Australian horror film I'd absolutely hated sober. Wouldn't shut up about it. Pacing. Lecturing. Cat just wanted to sleep. Sensing my audience was fading, I simply left at some point, turned out the light, not to be heard from (verbally) until morning.
  • Cat did hear signs of liquid trouble from the other bathroom, but opted to leave bad enough alone. Wise.

Shameful. Absolutely shameful.

I was that guy at the party. You know? That guy. The one who's funny for the first few minutes, but then after a while you just want him to go away, or pass out, or both. I'd never been that guy before. Or had I? I didn't know anymore. There's a lot about myself learned during that aftermath. I mean, who knew I'd memorised the entire choreography to the theme from Flashdance? Just who is that guy?

The questions of identity got even murkier several hours later, when another detail emerged. One that shook me to the core, and still does to this day.

Later that Sunday, Cat had finally convinced me to eat something, and do my best to keep it down. It was 1pm or something by then — I was in the Deep Deep Death stage of a brutal hangover. You know the one: the world was nothing more than a dark place that wanted to hurt me. My headache was terrible. My state of mind was so bad that I hadn't even complained when she rented Sex & The City 2 on iTunes and made us both sit through it. (I take back what I said before about Cat being nice. Sneaking that film in front of my eyeballs was evil. So, so evil.)

After that was done, we'd gone out for a walk. Fresh air. I was whinging pretty hard about my headache, but overall, starting to feel a bit better. That is, until she hit me with a fresh, terrifying new detail from the night before:

"Oh, I nearly forgot. I have a message for you."

"A message?"

"Yeah. From Drunk Demis."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, in the middle of that movie rant, Drunk Demis told me I had to give Hungover Demis a message from him later, at the point where Hungover Demis really started complaining about his headache."

"Really? What was the message?"

"He said to say : 'Whatever, fatty'."

Now, at this point in time, Cat had never been part of that particular work-place in-joke. There was no way she could know the phrase, nor its relevance. I won't bother going into to its meaning now, but basically, those two words proved that Drunk Demis himself had sent the message, and that she wasn't lying. Also, the darker implication: it proved that I was no longer one person, but two. Worse still, it proved that Drunk Demis wasn't merely a second, sentient, all-singing, all-dancing personality (with shitty taste in movies) lurking inside me, but he was also a something of a jerk.

(Well, not entirely. I noted later that Drunk Demis had the good sense to have taken off my expensive suit jacket before entering the vomitorium, folding it more perfectly than I normally manage at the best of times. Drunk Demis sounds like a bit of a kooky character on the whole, but at least the guy's good at laundry.)

-

Every time I have gone out for more than one drink since, I've remembered Drunk Demis, the zombie movie, and the infamous Thirty-Sixty-Ninety party. I've had some pretty good benders in my time, but that one will always stand apart, not only for the severity of its psychological aftermath, but that a booze-only bender was capable of extracting from my depraved depths darker elements than any longer, crazier, druggier bender ever has.

The toughest part is that there's no moral to this story. There's no lesson to be learned from it, apart from the utterly stupid one that begins: "Step One : Quit Drinking" (...ha!). I was careful. I had a plan, and I thought I was sticking to it. The way I've tried to come to terms with it since is to think that yeah, sometimes, no matter how smart you think you are, how in control, shit sometimes happens, but even then, as a 'lesson', that's a bit of a stretch.

If there was one thing to take away from the incident, perhaps it's buried somewhere in that sentiment about keeping your eye on the quiet ones. I've never heard from Drunk Demis again. Not yet, in any case, but that's not to say he's not out there, lurking somewhere, practicing his jacket-folds, being oh-so-very quiet.


(Image credit : 'Splat' - Anthony Theobald, reproduced under a Creative Commons license.)


demislw.com - rushmore

All-Time Top Five : 'Rushmore'

There’s a certain insight which comes from being of the generation whose feet are flirtatiously planted in both the modern, online world and the one that came before.

I get technology. My home is on the Internet, I haven’t read a paper book in years, am social-media-saturated to the teeth, and definitely the first to complain about getting crampy every time I’m asked to clutch an old-school pen for longer than a signature. Like so many of my thirtysomething age, despite having watched life and technology transform so drastically over our lifetimes, it’s become almost impossible to remember much of what things were like before. Like, as teenagers, how on earth did we ever get by without mobile communication, Instagram, and an unlimited supply of porn? It’s been a brave new world, one we stepped boldly into it without hesitation.

Every now and then, a remnant of that returns. A random memory of childhood. An old music video. Finding a random box of personal crap in a forgotten corner of that battered box full of our personal possessions. It’s those times that it all comes back, bringing with it a sudden sense of loss. I’m not talking about stock-standard nostalgia either. For me it’s specifically that other thing: remembering what living analogue was like, and missing — albeit briefly — what getting my hands dirty feels like.

I’m not knocking progress — all power to it. But in an age where there’s an easy online template for everything, where your interests, life and hobbies are all tagged and broadcasted, where it’s so easy to manufacture your own miniature Warholian fifteen minutes in the virtual, viral limelight, there’s something to be said for still knowing how to move people (not pixels), work with your hands, getting out there in the sweaty old world, and doing stuff.

Perhaps that’s what has always drawn me to Wes Anderson’s 1998 film, Rushmore.

All technical, creative, and filmmaking differences you may have with this aside, it’s the central character of Max Fischer (artfully portrayed by Jason Schwartzman) which has always summed up that part of me that doesn’t want to be stuck at a desk all day.

Max Fischer is a doer.

Trapped in the body of a spotty 15-year-old loser is a man of rather extreme passions, who, despite living in the greyest urban drab, manages to punch well above his weight and do things, not just dream and talk.

During the course of the film, his plan to successfully woo a young pretty teacher, Miss Cross (played by the lovely Olivia Williams) is ultimately doomed to fail. However it’s the way he goes about his day-to-day which appeals to the doer to me, even at a first viewing instantly rocketing the film to my ‘All-time Top Five’.

We see Max direct epic plays, occasionally involving on-stage dynamite and full-size replica helicopters being flown in. Though academically an extreme underachiever, Max chases, instigates and runs practically every extra-curricular activity or hobby he can think of (everything from Go-Karting, Fencing, Kite-flying, and a Mock UN Club). When he notices his beloved teacher, Miss Cross, has a fondness for tropical fish, he sets about finding funding from a local businessman (Bill Murray) to establish a multi-million-dollar aquarium, complete with architects, contractors a fanfared ground-turning ceremony on his school’s baseball pitch (without permission).

Even once things get nasty — Bill Murray’s character naturally swooping in on Miss Cross — Max still manages to carry out his rather inventive maliciousness with style. The sequence of the film where both characters go head to head trying to destroy one another is still my favourite, bringing everything from falling trees, cut brake cables and large-scale character assassination into the mix. (I can still recall choking on my popcorn the first time I saw Max emerge, slow-motion from a hotel elevator, framed like a guilty assassin, an empty Beekeeping box in his hand, having just delivered his weapon of buzzing destruction.)

The entire Rushmore universe is devoid of computers or anything online. Instead, it’s one filled with delicious physical props, battered typewriters and plenty of explosives. Anderson’s mix of charactured, melodramatic characters with comforting, ordinary ones only serves to make you want to be part of Max’s enthusiastic world all the more.

For my money, the modern world needs more Max Fischers.

Something of a doer myself, I’ve noted that in recent years I run into less and less of my proactive kin; people as passionate about their personal projects as they are about their jobs, social media profiles, or their favourite television shows. Worse, how few have anything resembling ‘personal projects’ in their life these days at all.

It’s so easy to enjoy the wonders of instant community and online content consumption that people are forgetting how to create, explore and innovate in the real world. I love that there are a whole lot of new techs that have sprung up that bridge the divide — the Makers, 3d printing, robotics — but those are hardly shaking loose any more than the types of boffins who would have been doing regardless of what era they were born in.

The excuses are always the same. Too busy. Too tired. “…[Something-something-something], but I really want to next month”. That’s not to say people don’t have dreams anymore, or good intentions. Many do, but so often, those dreams get over-run before they go anywhere, either through their priority not being high enough to matter, or by folks being just too tired to get inspired.

And hey, I get that too. The difference is, I’ve always got Max nagging me in the back of my head. Once every year or so, whenever I’m feeling flat, I dust off my old copy of Rushmore, and try to let his drive infect me. Max is the perfect tonic for feeling uninspired and digitally drained. Sure, we’re not always going to win at everything, but getting out there, getting sweaty, rolling with the punches, and never taking no for an answer when it comes to realising our dreams. That maybe, if you’re going to get stressed out and busy and caught up in something, why not let that be pursuing what you love? And while you’re at the dream-catching, how’s about bringing as many people along with you for the ride while you’re out there punching above your weight?

Rushmore is far from a perfect film for many. Most I mention it to wouldn’t consider it Anderson’s best, given how strong the rest of his directorial history has played out since 1998. But for me, it’ll always win out over all the rest, purely for being a film that continually, year after year, gets me up off my butt and away from the screen. Whether or not whatever mad scheme comes from it is just as doomed to fail as Max’s sometimes were, there’s never a good excuse not to try something once simply because there isn’t a default box for it on your Facebook profile?


Damn Fine Coffee

"Harry, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it. Don't wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee." —Special Agent Dale Cooper, FBI

There's a lot of wisdom to be had from any reading of David Lynch's famed Twin Peaks from a culinary perspective. The characters inhabiting its twisted world are rarely seen consuming anything other than the finest of comfort foods—doughnuts, various pies, the occasional cherry stalk, and yes: plenty of damn fine coffee. It's Cooper's philosophy of self-gifting that's stuck with me through the intervening years since my first viewing of series, and particularly his obsession with his cups of joe.

Let's face it: people get a little silly about 'their' coffee. Fanatical pursuit of the good bean spans all demographics; bearded hipsters, high-strung executives, McCafé-dwelling labourers, the single-source foodie aficionados. Everyone has their own preference, their own big opinions on how coffee should be done, or what comprises a good one. Further, no matter what the formula, all coffee-drinkers are unified on one point: the only way you'll get them to stop drinking it is to pry it from their cold, dead hands.

(Side note : a dietician once told me of a morbidly obese patient who refused to give up their five, daily, super-sized-double-cream-six-sugared chocolate lattes, regardless of a single serving being packed with 100% of the recommended daily intake of saturated fat...)

My journey with coffee has been a bumpy one. Despite chugging more cups through my university years to keep a couple of Starbucks franchises in business, my twenties saw a complete departure from the brew: I was told I was allergic to it, and that I'd need to stop. I was crestfallen, but I did comply. For nine, brutal years. It wasn't so bad. I survived. I bitched and moaned a lot, doing my best at self-righteously broadcasting the few negative health effects I could Google whenever my co-workers seemed to be enjoying their morning and afternoon doses too much.

Fortunately, that dark period of my life didn't last. A coffee-free world could not—nay, should not—be allowed to exist in any universe. A chance visit to a completely different practitioner, years later, and a candid question about my coffee allergy, changed everything:

"Oh, you did that allergy test? We don't even do that anymore. Totally unreliable. I doubt you're allergic to coffee at all."

The rest, as they say, is history. The timing of the discovery was made even more fortuitous by my move to London, a city that, while labouring long under the guise of being 'a tea city', had a blossoming (hipster-driven) coffee culture. Like, the real sort. None of this Twin Peaks diner coffee business. (Honestly, I'd love to see how badly Agent Cooper's mind would blow if he ever passed through Shoreditch.)

The shameful, cutting-a-long-story-short part of my tale is the personal aftermath: I've gone from being a man who'd diss and jeer anyone bragging about how good their coffee was every morning (me, back then: "Seriously? You drink the same shit every day. Coffee is either drinkable, or it's not. You're just addicted to the caffeine or something.") to flipping to the opposite end of the scale: a man with an Aeropress, a bag of Kenya's finest, and a shiny Japanese Porlex hand-cranked grinder he's not afraid to use at his desk.

The me of five years ago would hate the me of this morning. I don't go on about coffee that much. I don't rub it in people's faces. If anything, my current obsession with the 'press is something I try to keep to myself. It's bad enough being branded some kind of East London wanker for chipping away at novels while playing with an Oculus rift in a sharing-economy-friendly co-working space in an old Hackney Wick warehouse on the canal—the sight of that same wanker performing a smug hand-grind (while within reach of a perfectly respectable filter-based coffee machine) may just be enough to push a person's sanity over the edge. The me of five years ago certainly wouldn't like it—he'd have taken a bat to the Porlex weeks ago.

What I'm getting at is that I'd like to think Special Agent Cooper would understand. He'd get it, that the morning ritual, noisy, temperature-and-time-sensitive process is just another way of giving myself that daily present. It isn't planned. Some days it doesn't happen at all, but when it does? That five minutes of obsessive prep is worth it, every drop. I'm not perfect at it yet, but I'm getting better—even the educational/growth part of that morning cup has become part of Cooper's brand of gift. Mostly, it's just about sitting back with my cup, flipping up some morning cat videos, and enjoying one final moment of calm before the day takes over.

And really, isn't that what Coop's secret was really trying to get across, hand-cranked or otherwise?

Damn fine.