Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Flight to Sicily —since nobody ever wrote a song about how they just missed the midnight train going anywhere, got their refund and took the train to Palermo the next day—all because of a homeless man at the ticket machine who kept demanding money and pressing all of the wrong buttons!

The ship.

In film, breaking the fourth wall is a term used to describe the concept of crossing the boundary that separates fiction from the reality in which the audience (or in our case the reader) exists in order to reveal the fiction as an illusion.

This can highlight our perception of ideas and truths that exist within the theme of a story.

Think of the climactic scene in Mel Brook's, Blazing Saddles when a fight spills out of the movie and continues through Warner Brother's Studios.

Picture me sitting on a train, heading for Palermo, after becoming overwhelmed with the sudden urge to travel anywhere, immediately, as fast as a I could.  I am breaking down the fourth wall (a tactic I often see as rather cheesy) for the first and only time in Chapter 10 of Bar Fight, "The Description of a Trashy Bar Scene," as I explain to you—the reader—how I am making up the novel Bar Fight as I am sitting on a train. 

In literature, breaking the fourth wall is often referred to as metafiction.

I like to think I broke the fourth wall in a very classy way.



Did you get the very subtle reference to Journey, in the title of this post?

The other theme of this post is going to be soft rock.

Soft rock is as good as hard rock but softer.

Journey was a serious inspiration for the journey that was writing Bar Fight.


The journey to Sicily is overnight.  I am in a cab with six seats, another guy and girl—in the morning I will wake up as a seven foot tall man glances between me and the bag at my arm (containing my $2,225 Mac laptop), who will slowly draw his head away, through the curtains saying "ahhhhh" with a bright eyed smile realizing my eyes are open and on him.

The thing I remember most about Sicily are cacti and the vibrant blue sea.

In the morning he will jump out of the door as we slowly roll past his spot.

He is probably not supposed to be on this train.

Yes, I was way too cheap to afford a cab with a bed but at least I bought a ticket.  Right now I am tired, I am writing, and this entire bottle of Chardonnay I brought along is not helping me fall asleep any faster.

This girl keeps looking over and reading my laptop, and I don't know if she speaks English or not.

Is this true?

This is true!

It's hard to say—

Is it true that you wrote the entire preliminary draft to Bar Fight while listening the song it's "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" by Chicago on repeat?  Yeah, it's true.  No! I am not a psychopath!

That's a powerful song!  

It's so hard!

When your trying to write a fiction novel and you're all one your own.

When your sitting on a train and you're trying to break the fourth wall and someone is, 
watching you—

This is turning into Chapter 24 of Bar Fight!
We are on Chapter 10—

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 10 of Bar Fight, "The Description of a Trashy Bar Scene"…



"….I couldn't (...) concentrate on a thing, aside from the actual part about a girl pretending she couldn't speak English reading a bar fight in progress on my lap top, I was paranoid this girl actually was reading a bar fight in progress on my lap top, found out the next day that she could not speak a word of English, as she was trying to assist the guy sitting at the seat across from me (…) trying to explain, how alcohol is good, dance is good, but drugs are number one…"!



This is my third trip, into or out of Sicily and the first time I ever realized that the train actually drives into a ship and crosses the sea.

This is true!

I never understood why we would park in this giant room for hours when I was trying to 
sleep—"..couldn't stand to be swept away, just for the day from your boody!"

Am I getting sidetracked?  That is Chicago!

I can't put Chicago lyrics in the novel Bar Fight because I know absolutely nothing about copyright laws.

I also don't have money.

Or power.

This is true!

The reason that I (…), (…)'ed my own excerpt is because Bar Fight very often has a song-like rhythm that sounds just plain awkward If you don't have a sense of the greater passage.

This is true!  

Did this story shed any more light on how writing the novel Bar Fight makes reasonable sense?  I hope it didn't bemuse you, because if it did;

It's so hard for me to say I'm sorry.

Most importantly everything written in this blog is true.   It is based on an email sent on 3/23/2010. 

Cacti at Taormina


Photographs taken by Alan Michael

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ostia Antica

The maze of a creative process, southwest of the outskirts of Rome,

where I sat and jotted ideas for Bar Fight—in a little black book,


and disentangled the mystery of how Matthew's solace in fate and Michael's reliance on free will, would lead to tension and balance their friendship in Bar Fight.

—go there.

Photographs by Alan Michael

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Smart Has the Brains...



























These ads for an Italian fashion line (Diesel) were posted all over the city of Rome during the winter of 2010.  Some of them involved nudity and I found the tag lines to be motivational as I worked towards the production of Bar Fight.  This may or may not be a good thing.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fountains In Rome: Three To See And Hear Before You Die


1.  The Trevi Fountain


2.  The Fontana Del Pantheon


3.  The Three Fountains at Piazza Navona
(Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, Fontana del Moro,
Fontana del Nettuno)

4.  The Fontana del Pantheon accompanied by an opera man.

Judging from the quality of the clips shown above, 
I'm sure you can tell I have a degree in video production.

Barabbas: Update


The result of about 2-3 months of work since the previous photo of 
The Crucifixion of Barabbas at the Place of the Skull" (posted below)

Close up photograph of a dollar.

Next I will add black chiaroscuro shadows and electric sparks behind the leaves.

All Images and Photos Copyright Alan Michael 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

More Things That I Will Do When I Am Not Writing "Bar Fight": Saint John, Saint John, Saint John, Saint John





I am working on plans for a drawing titled Saint John, Saint John, Saint John, Saint John which will replicate four "Andy Warhol style" prints of Caravaggio's, Saint John the Baptist (above) and look similar to the depiction of Caesar Augustus used on the Bar Fight website (also above).  Saint John x 4 will be 3' x 3' and all space will be filled with a dot or detail as in the illustration I am working on now (shown below).  The work in progress below is titled The Crucifixion of Barabbas at the Place of the Skull.  Barabbas was the rebel chosen to be set free before Jesus was crucified according to the Bible and little is known about him.  With symbols representing sex, vice, drugs, money and an overwhelming reminder of mortality The Crucifixion of Barabbas depicts an arrogant (or maybe even ordinary) man who gladly suffers for his own selfish choices.  The reality of that choice is suggested by a strong contrast of color.  Barabbas may include the biblical phrase, "How hard it is for those with wealth, to enter the kingdom of God!"


The workspace of Saint John will be a bright, neon fill with no white or black space and contradictions such as bright orange versus hot pink, magenta, lime green and blue should confuse the eye—a friend indicated this to me as being psychedelic.  The goal is to "defeat" modern technology by creating a work of art with details too minute to be appreciated on a computer screen.  My previous drawing, When in Rome do a Roman (reposted again below) is 9" x 11" and photographed at 16.2 megapixels the smallest details are neglected at 45MB.  Roman took six months to complete and Barabbas is twice that size.  If I find the time and resources to complete the 3' x 3' Saint John—I'll be impressed.  I don't know how long it will take because I also plan to write a third novel, make a living and socialize.  I've found that a good balance is necessary towards my productivity and notice a relationship between my ability to read, write, illustrate… and work—which I totally actually do.

Imagine if Saint John was also in 3D?  All photographs and images, aside from Caravaggio's Saint John the Baptist, are copyright Alan Michael 2012.  The above photograph of Caravaggio's Saint John the Baptist has been taken from the public domain.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sahara

As summer comes to a close in Pittsburgh...

I leave you this.
Think of this in January—I know I will. 


Am I the only one who thinks that grainy photographs that look like postcards from the 1970's are really cool?  Screw your digital camera this is disposable.

The photographs above were taken by Alan Michael copyright 2012.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Birth of a Legend: True Fiction versus Fact

I've always believed creating a story is about letting things sort of happen, as opposed to trying to play God.
Close up detail of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio's, Michelangelo Buonarroti ("The Creation of Adam") inspired "Calling of Saint Matthew" (on right).

As I may or may not by now have expressed, I almost deliberately avoided studying the most in-depth details of the real Caravaggio's life before writing the novel Bar Fight, intending to create a character of my own as opposed to a strict interpretation of the real man.  I already knew great deal about the painter at the time but only recently have I finished Andrew Graham-Dixon's 445 page long biography offering all sorts of perspective on what the painter's life (which remains largely a mystery) was actually like (I intend to review this book later).  It was also important to me that I devised my own perspective on his paintings (trying to see firsthand as many as I could as opposed to having someone else's interpretation fed to me).

The resemblance of the spirit of this character I have created to the real Caravaggio has only grown more striking upon diving further into the details.  The coincidences have been phenomenal, social issues, prejudice, identity and the fear of terrorism in the immediate aftermath of September 11th make up some of the major driving themes of Bar Fight.  Little did I know then—that at the time of Caravaggio's birth, Italy was swept by widespread concern over the threat of Islamic invasion, contributing to a movement towards a fundamental, radical form of Christianity and even inspiring Caravaggio's parents to name him after the archangel Michael (the protector of the faithful responsible for separating the blessed from the damned—the guardian of the Hebrew Nation).

Bar Fight is fiction, yes, but there is an idea of truth driving any work of fiction that speaks to us (if we are so attracted to listen).  There has always been a story below the surface of what is often glorified as wild and random on behalf of Caravaggio's lifestyle.

Even this blog at times re-iterates and will continue to exploit some of the wilder ideas of Caravaggio's life, mentioning in an article below that one of Caravaggio's depictions of the Virgin Mary was rejected due to its "obvious sensuality"—historians have repeated this for years although it is just as likely if not very plausible that Caravaggio's depiction of a poor and populist version of the Holy Mary (as opposed to one more Saintly and Queenlike) simply fell out of touch with the theological trends of the time thus playing an equal role in the rejection (and the naked baby Jesus probably didn't help).

The underlying message was clear.  His art (himself as a man) was something to be appreciated but not quite for the masses, because it spoke to the poor and humble instead of demanding them to revere the powerful and holy—and it was downright sexy. 

Madonna dei Palafrenieri, Caravaggio, 
Image taken from public domain.

Close up of
Madonna del Palafrenieri, Caravaggio,
Image taken from public domain.

In the same light, it is much more likely that Caravaggio killed Ranuccio Tomassoni in a prearranged duel, fair and square, as opposed to (what very may well be the cover up perpetuated by history) that he killed him because of an impulsive disagreement over a tennis match.  The murder was likely gang related, a meeting of four on four (and dueling was a capital crime in Rome).  

The protagonist of Bar Fight is pursued by a similarly ragtag gang and the climax plays out very much like a duel.  The hero, Michael, is held responsible for the death of one person in the novel, mishandling her after she is accidentally shot directly in the upper thigh by someone else.  When I wrote this I was unaware that the real Caravaggio's fatal blow was given directly to the upper thigh near the groin, in what was most likely, inadvertently—literally, an overkilled attempt to emasculate Ranuccio Tomassoni with a sword—a pretty serious insult, naturally, at the time.


The penalty for cutting off someone's testicles in Rome was a fine of probably around 200 lire per testicle plus 500 lire for castration (as was law in Caravaggio's hometown of Milan during the mid 16th century).


Could the duel have been over a woman?  History suggests Ranuccio Tomassoni's wife may not have been all that great of a wife.  Tomassoni was Fillide Melandroni's (the prostitute Caravaggio was quite close with) pimp.  Could it have been politics?  Caravaggio seemed to have loose ties to the French and Ranuccio Tomassoni to the Spanish.  Nothing like this actually happens in Bar Fight but clashing ideologies and mindset certainly play a role in the conflict.

The truth is, the times Caravaggio lived in were violent, many members of his family died from the black plague during his childhood (and the black plague was blamed on a religious minority), the church took a census of who did and did not receive communion, people were racist, and heretics were regularly tortured to death in public as Christian martyrs were revered.  There is no doubt that all of these extreme ongoings and contradictions had an effect on Caravaggio's strong chiaroscuro style (extreme black vs. extreme light) but much of his life remains shrouded in mystery, attributed to sensationalism and semi-myth.  The idea of Bar Fight is to take you behind the scenes and show you what a man like this would really be like, how he would think.  The spirit of Caravaggio is very much alive in Bar Fight, be it in 2001.  What is the world like today, beneath the surface?  Are there contradictions in thoughts and belief?  With all of the parallels that can be drawn, both planned and unexpected, it almost seems as if this story was meant to be.  It just sort of happened.

Portrait of Caravaggio by Ottavio Leoni, 
Image taken from Public Domain


Bibliography

Graham-Dixon, Andrew.  (2010).  Caravaggio:  A Life Sacred and Profane.  New York, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pictures of Cars in Rome With Racing Stripes on them and also a Picture of a Car Without Racing Stripes but a Cat Sleeping on the Windshield.




















(Palermo)



Have you ever imagined that a Harley Davidson biker gang would ride straight down the Via Del Conciliazione towards St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican?  
This is what it would look like if they did...


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bar Fight: The Proposal; Current Progress


This is the newest and most refined version of the proposal I have created to promote the novel "Bar Fight."  Differing from the previous version (posted weeks ago) this proposal is outlined according to the following paragraph structure;

I.  Hook (grabs attention)
II.  Flat out sales pitch.
III.  One paragraph of story (a synopsis similar to one found on the back of a book)
IV.  Who is this for and why?
V. Who am I and who was I when I wrote this?
VI.  An effective closing paragraph that directs to the website.

What do you think?  Do you find this proposal to be effective?  All advice and suggestions are welcomed (and pleaded for) and can be placed via comments on blogger, Facebook, email or of course you could always just tell me…


       In early September, Michael Caravaggio and his loyal friend Matthew were sitting in a Bar and they were children.  In the following days a newscaster came on the television and told them there were terrorist attacks, that life revolved around text messaging and the internet, they were thrown into a completely new adult world and they remained, children.

       Bar Fight is an 87,000 word fiction novel young people will want to read because it is about heavy drinking, partying and starting fights.

       Welcome to the year 2001.  Having just been unleashed into the rural West Virginia bar scene after a long stretch in art school, 21 year old Michael Caravaggio is immediately motivated to assault outspoken, intolerant,  local, Ray Archibald Heart.  All does not go smoothly as he skyrockets into success and prominence as a professional painter.  Michael brawls constantly and risks everything.  Ray wants his revenge, a makeshift gang, a lone assassin and bigoted locals stand in his way.  Everyone seems to want Michael dead.  His only choice to save his career is to fight or run for his life, or will he do both?
       Readers will enjoy Bar Fight because it reveals the private, self destructive life of an artist otherwise known only as a legend.  Michael isn't afraid to satisfy our darkest impulses by doing the wrong thing in almost any situation but everything seems to work for him.  He and his best friend brawl for fun, if Grand Theft Auto V was a novel this is what it would be like.  I believe that young people living in the economy of today will find inspiration in the story of a young man who can be so wild and impatient and still have opportunities to succeed.  All of us have a little bit of Michael Caravaggio in our hearts, a need to witness something like this, and anyone who enjoys transgressive fiction by writers like …………. and ……...…. will also enjoy Bar Fight.
       This story fell together for me years ago as I ran off to Europe and spent months wandering the streets of Rome, traveling towards Southern Italy then through North Africa as I devised this character that was part alter-ego, part living contradiction.  I was drawing for myself a parallel to the artist I most relate to and admire, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.  I am an artist and writer lifeguarding part-time to survive, I had no other way to experience what I felt, what I know others will enjoy connecting with.
       The process of how I created this story continues to be described on my blog at http://blog.thebarfight.com/.  There is a sample chapter, further details about Bar Fight and a link to a small Facebook following at www.TheBarFight.com.  I can be contacted by phone (412-555-5555) or through email (Carabloggio@gmail.com).  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

The Bar Fight "Cara-blog-gio" Blog


Knowing that "transgressive" fiction is a form of literary fiction more commonly associated with having an edge of social commentary would you consider such a comparison to contradict the idea of Michael being an "inspiration"?  

Should the popularity of the anti-hero in our modern culture be specifically highlighted in this proposal or does that go unsaid?

Is there anything that you think is missing or redundant?