Like most Canadians, I have complicated feelings when it comes to America. I have the regular envy; of American Movies, Specialty Channel TV, region specific fast food, and I have the self-righteous/pat-yourself-on-the-back indignation; fracking, gun-culture, women’s rights, minority rights, gerrymandering, and the list goes on. But waking up this morning to pictures from Ferguson and the understandable fury over the Darren Wilson Grand-Jury decision, I feel more disconnected from the land I may someday live than ever before. There was an injustice committed against Michael Brown, an injustice that has called many people back onto the Greyhound to resume the Freedom Rides fifty years after Civil Rights was written into law. This time it is not a trip to the South, but rather a trip into the American Heartland. A trip to correct the long bus ride of history. Where humans tied not just by colour or by colourlessness (as the case may be) but by a hatred of injustice joined together.
People who have come awake again, opened their eyes and realized the problems of the past are the problems of today. We have become so complacent. Not just of racism, but of injustice. This is often framed in the argument that we no longer feel safe. That terror can strike us at home. This is not true. We celebrated paper victories, we cheered political opportunism – we ignored the cancer of injustice within our very soul. Canada and the United States share the same original sins, slavery and Native genocide both wrapped in white-idealism.
How can you shoot a man and feel nothing? How can you shoot a woman and feel nothing? How can you shoot a child? How is this happening again, and so often? Why is stand your ground the only principle that people care enough to stand for. How could those sworn to protect us betray us so often. Why are we all so jaded? Why does belief in a just police force sound so naive? Why is naivety such a terrible thing? I want our society to work. I want decisions to be based on kindness and human decency. I want bullets to cost more. I want lives to cost even more than bullets.
Why is Jurassic World a thing? And why am I finding out about it on the same day that America has failed me so? Jurassic Park taught me that no matter the idealism, bringing back Dinosaurs was a bad idea. Jurassic World’s trailer suggests that it’s fine to bring back Dinosaurs – so long as you don’t futz with them too much first. Are there no principles we can stand behind? Is there no justice, even in cinema? What is happening to this Jurassic world? Whatever happened to those Turok video games, why didn’t they just make a movie about them?
Now before you ask me, how I can write about both a terrible tragedy of justice and damn Jurassic World in the same opinion piece – I want you to ask yourself something. Haven’t you been thinking about both as well? Is your Facebook News Feed a strange amalgam of Hollywood and Missouri? If it is, you have your answer.
One last thing before I go, some weeks ago my publisher Cameron Anstee (Apt. 9 Press –cameronanstee.wordpress.com) asked me to write about my writing process. He sent me some questions and I’ll answer them now.
What are you working on?
I like to work on as many things at once as possible. I am working on a few new creative micro-non fiction things (ex. A Def-Jam History of Hawaii), a couple of new short stories (When Even the Dog Knows I’m Sad) and a few script things. I am shilling a couple of TV pilots around, a few new screenplays and am revising a few old ones.
My script work is always what gets me the most excited. I wrote a pilot called “Big Dumb Monkeys” that came out of a conversation I had with Amanda and Charles Earl (www.bywords.ca) about how few people ever write about living with strange but benign medical things. I am starting a new project, writing with someone very talented, on a Network TV pilot script called “Perverts?” Which I hope, hopefully we hope, to have pitch ready by January.
I am rewriting my feature script “Women” for the 11th time, and hope to have a team in place to produce it next year. Although missing the OAC grant deadline has been a challenge and lesson in stress management. A few weeks ago, I started writing a follow up script called “Men.” Which is a lot of fun.
I recently went back to “Great American Food,” a script I wrote in 2009 about an Organic Beef Jerky Farmer who finds himself in the crosshairs of Big Corporate Jerky. I also picked up, for the first time in 2 years, the third draft of an as of yet untitled screenplay. It’s a kind of Gulliver’s travels inspired morality play wherein an atheist moral-philosopher discovers a society of tiny religious fanatics living inside his rectum.
I have a novel manuscript dedicated to Jeff Blackman that I would like to get out into the world. It’s called “Bad Things Happening to Good People Who Don’t Deserve it.”
Oh yeah, and my forthcoming play “Clone Hitler Goes to the Beach” needs to get cast and I need to finalize bookings around the country.
I like to keep busy.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not really sure if it does. I mean, I don’t really know what my genre is. Well, that’s not true – it’s comedy. I guess, if I were being honest, I would say that my work differs from other comedy writers because you can tell I am trying really hard.
Wakka Wakka…or whatever. I don’t know – I just write about the things that nest in my head. My house caught fire when I was a kid, because a chimney sweep blocked the flue to keep the birds out. When I started writing I was really afraid of burning out. I guess I still am, because this is literally one of the only things I am good at. So whenever things wake me up at night, or bother me in the shower, I write about them because I don’t want my house to burn down.
Why do I write what I do? How does my writing process work?
Oh jeez. I guess i jumped this question. I write whenever I feel uncomfortable, when I can’t watch a movie or a tv show because something is bothering me too much. When my dog looks at me with that, “I love you David. I don’t know what’s going on but you’re my guy” eye.(1) You can’t disappoint your pets. If you do, that guilt is going to stay. I write when I have to and I have to write pretty often.
I write comedy because I am funny and I like making people laugh. If I wrote tragedy – I’d probably make people laugh and then they’d be disappointed. I don’t like disappointing people -at all.