Music was, indeed, Faced: finally reflecting the return of Bill & Ted

My dad was never one to let go of something he believed was a “superior technology.” This means that now, in the year 2020, Dad is still the proud owner of a fully functioning Betamax player. Our family home only ever saw a VHS player once the last video rental store in the area to carry Betamax finally gave up this Ghost of Slightly Smaller Cassettes.

I still have a vague memory of the place, with its musty carpet, nearby All-You-Can-Eat Chinese Buffet, and rack of week-long rentals that included my favourite movie of all time (pun intended): Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

We’d journey here weekly and my dad would always tell my sister and I we could pick out one week-long rental. For a months-long stretch, we rented Bill and Ted over and over and over again. Even the jokes that went right over my head I committed to memory. (Freud’s corndog, for instance, I didn’t even notice until someone pointed it out for me at the ripe old age of twenty-six.) I still say, “Strange things must be afoot,” every time I pass a Circle K. I even stole this t-shirt off an ex-boyfriend before giving it back out of guilt:

What can I say? Wyld Stallyns pairs nicely with weird hats and peanut butter.

Needless to say, years have passed and every time I’ve revisited Excellent Adventure, I enjoy it just as much as I did when I was a kid. (Bogus Journey I just never loved as much, so matter how much I wanted to. I’m sorry!) With the exception of a certain slur*, the film holds up remarkably well. The upright joy and utter sincerity of Bill and Ted were always refreshing, no matter how bitter and cynical either myself or the world seemed to be.

Now, my bitter and cynical days are behind me, tossed on the heap of exhaustion caused by rampant hipsterism. I was just done with irony, tbh. A lot of people were sick of snarky, mean-spirited humour and crass “hot-takes” just intended to provoke. It comes from a position of such privilege and entitlement – the cultural equivalent of a relative who vocalizes his observation regarding the sheer size of your thighs and then claims it was a joke… like he’s the Seinfeld of school yard bullies. It’s exhausting. Really. There’s a point where you’re just… done.

So when the announcement came that the third Bill and Ted movie was on its way at long last, I was not alone in my excitement. But then *gestures to the dumpster fire* happened and… a new Bill and Ted became more than a want; it was a need.

Husband and I certainly did not go see it in a theatre. We aren’t crazy people, and, to be honest, I’m not even sure theatres are open in B.C. But we were certainly willing to fork out whatever they demanded in a rental fee. Thirty years I’d waited for this! I have no idea how much my dad paid to that little video rental place over the weeks that time, but I doubt my $20 eclipsed him.

We had the streaming rental of Bill and Ted Face the Music for 48 hours.

We watched it three times.

Yes, Husband watched it with me all three times and that’s how I know it’s true love, baby.

As I started it for the third time, I wondered if this was a silly thing to waste my weekend on, but, well, these are silly times. I’m thirty-six years old and god damn it, I needed to feel like a six-year-old again, just for a few hours.

But the thing is… I didn’t feel like a six-year-old. At least not just. Because the film wasn’t just silly.

*SPOILERS AHOY*

As much as I loved seeing Bill and Ted hop into the future to meet the various incarnations of their future selves, my favourite part of the Face the Music was their daughters, Billie and Thea. How perfect Brigitte Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving were aside, after the second and third viewings, I really came to appreciate the thematic nuances of their storyline.

On my first viewing, I wasn’t surprised with the twist that Billie and Ted’s daughters were the ones who wrote the song that saved the world (not to brag, but I, like totally called it after the trailer, when Holland Taylor’s character mentions the song being by “Preston/Logan,” but anyway… yeah *self-satisfied shrug*), but I was surprised at how moved I was by the ending.

Not gonna lie, I definitely teared up at the fact that it didn’t actually matter what the song was, it was the fact that everyone was playing together that saved the world. Christ, I’m tearing up again just thinking about it. In those more bitter and cynical days this would have been written off as cheesy, but fuck those days; it was beautiful.

And then…

AND THEN. The closing credits.

The inset clips of people rocking out in their living rooms, yards, parks or wherever while the various world monuments popped back into place… well. I doubt there’s ever going to be a time (at least in the foreseeable future) when various Zoom-like shots of people in their different homes, all over the world, isn’t going to make me emotional. I’ll be a little old lady in the year 2075 when some awards-show bait uses this convention and I’ll be a blubbering mess while my grand-niblings wonder what the hell is wrong with me.

So after the first viewing, the theme was clear: we’re better together. Music is a universal language and our commonalities will unite us.

And yes, these endings and this theme got me again the second and third viewings, but those second and third viewings, I was able to appreciate the nuance of Billie and Thea’s storyline and how it hinted at a deeper, more mature theme. As they travel throughout time to put together a most excellent bad for their dads, what I loved most is how what convinces the different musicians to join is not an explanation of the situation, but the other musicians playing for them.

Louis Armstrong is convinced by a video of Jimi Hendrix playing guitar, while Armstrong in turn plays his trumpet to convince Hendrix. Hendrix then lures in Mozart by playing his guitar along to Mozart’s piano. Mozart then picks up Ling Lun’s flute and plays it to get her on board, and so on. By Bill and Ted also conceding that their daughters are the ones to write the song underscores another theme (or perhaps just adds another facet to the first).

There’s no such thing as a solitary hero. We’re all on the shoulders of giants, so to speak. We are all part of a continuum, a piece in the larger puzzle. Even a rock hero like Jimi Hendrix was beholden to those before him like Louis Armstrong or Mozart. Even a genius like Mozart had Ling Lun before him. Even Ling Lun – the mythical inventor of music – had someone before her.

The idea that enthralled me as a kid – the idea that anyone, even dudes like Bill and Ted, could be a singular hero that save the world – seems childish now. Because it is childish. It takes the egotistical naivete of a child to think that a single person alone can save the world, to think that there could somehow be a single song so perfect and wonderful that it could save humanity.

This is where Face the Music has evolved and matured from the earlier offerings. While recognizing, as the films always have, that the initial premise – Wyld Stallyns music saves the world – is silly, now they have to reckon with that reality (or, face the music, I suppose). This is where they turn a bit of a storytelling conundrum into a opportunity. There’s a truth underlying this all: Bill and Ted can’t save the world. Not alone. No one can. If we’re going to be grown-ups about this, we need to recognize we’re just a part of a larger whole. No one is going to save us; we have to do this ourselves. We’re not heroes, but we can be heroic.

So many people have said that this was the movie we needed right now, and they’re right. But really, we’ve needed it for a long time.


* I will not repeat it here, but if you know the film you know what I’m talking about and I just wanted to point out that even as a kid, that line never worked for me. Hell, I didn’t even know what it meant beyond my mom’s explanation of “it’s not a nice word.” In the context, however, it didn’t work for me because it seemed to suggest that Bill and Ted were embarrassed by showing affection towards each other, which just struck me as out of character. These two bundles of love who obvious deeply care about each other are red-faced at accidentally letting the other know how much they care? Ridiculous.

Read Trev’s Books (not all of them) at Issuu

Once I shared this with my mother (and the art world), it was safe to share with the world! You can find my latest zine – Trev’s Books: Unpacking My Grandfather’s Library at Issuu.)

Without repeating the zine itself verbatim, this zine is an extremely personal one for me. When my grandfather passed away in January, I inherited his (extensive) book collection, as I was the only other one in the family who could describe themself as a “book person.”

Books were the only thing Grandpa and I had in common so of course unpacking his library was how I worked through a complicated grieving process (if you ever actually work through a thing like that). And, of course, I made a zine about it!

A Breach at Stronghold – now on Gumroad!

screen-shot-2020-06-05-at-11.15.34-1A Breach at Stronghold, the murder mystery party game I debuted amongst the privileged elite* back in February is now finally formatted and available for sale and download on Gumroad! This thing was a precious labour of love and an amazing challenge. How do you write a compelling murder mystery, break it into nine, satisfying pieces, and do that all so everyone comes away feeling like you didn’t undermine the character they’ve taken to heart?  The Gumroad download provides PDFs that print easily (if you need to print at all) on 8 1/2 x 11, but I’ve also included a Print variation for tactile beings like myself who love things like long-reach staplers for making booklets and staining paper with tea to fashion cryptic clues. (You can never really get the zinester fully into the digital age.)
*Nine of my most excellent friends who are always up for dinner theatre, gaming, overall shenanigans, or all of the above.

Museum of the Western World & Trev’s Books with BIBLIOCACHE

As a certain big-eyed ingenue once said, life moves pretty fast sometimes.

We’ve barely got Museum of the Western World printed and it’s already out in the world! So is Trev’s Books! (I’ve also sent them my old classic What I Did on a Saturday Afternoon!)

I was invited by Aaron Moran to contribute new zines to Poor Quality’s BIBLIOCACHE exhibit at the Vancouver Book Art Fair at Emily Carr University. The exhibit runs this weekend from October 18-20, 2019!

Be sure to check it out!

Museum of the Western World

This summer, Husband and took a jaunty road trip over to Vancouver Island and reveled in the warm vibe of hippies with rose-coloured glasses. Victoria, especially, with its parliament buildings, horse-drawn carriages, and organic foods evokes a weird blend of several bygone eras.

Twice a graduate of UVIC, to Husband, a trip to Victoria always feels like coming home. Even though I’ve only ever visited there myself, I can’t deny it feels the same for me. I think I just recognize that uncomfortable colonial British legacy jarring against a counter-culture optimism. There’s a layer of me painted all over that city.

The last time we were in Victoria was shortly after our wedding for Husband’s thirtieth birthday. Like that visit, this time we went back to UVIC, for Husband to retread the old stomping grounds. What is it with feeling the need to go back to places where we spent such crucial parts of our lives? If they’ve changed, we feel somehow betrayed; but if they’re exactly the same, we’re starkly reminded of how much we’ve changed.

But we went regardless and it was fine. We learned there’s perhaps nothing so steadfast as university campus culture. It’s locked forever in a perpetual 1993.

As a nice contrast to the easy-going university sprawl, we also went to the Royal BC Museum. Now, both of us are definitely museum people… and both of us have been here before. Many times. But it’s been long enough that everything is cast in a slightly different hue. That colonial legacy is less quaint and a bit more… what’s the word…? Enraging.

Husband pointed out that several of the plaques explaining an artifact were prefaced with some sort of phrase that amounts to “We have no idea what this is but…” and then a second phrase that sounds like it was completed by a first-year anthropology student’s Mad Lib. “… it was probably used for some sort of ritual,” is the most common.

For the rest of the trip, I started turning this over in my head. It felt like there was something there… something I could do to make fun of that fact without being disrespectful to the people whose culture these assumptions were made about.

So, like any someone badly in need of an outlet who is inherently dissatisfied with Twitter, I decided to make a zine. I reached out to my cousin, Amy Rajala, who is a pretty talented photographer (with a new roll of black and white film to burn). She photographed some pretty amazing objects around her house and I’m putting text to them.

I’m excited to see where this goes!

Rifling through your Wordhoard

the comparative value of write-ins

Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in a “write-in” as part of the New West Festival of Words 2018. Having never taken part in a write-in before, I admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it just be three hours of writing time? Would it just journalling?

As it turns out, it was an elaborate challenge to my writing process.  Continue reading “Rifling through your Wordhoard”

Reworking a Draft

when do you just have to let it go?

Everyone knows nothing’s perfect after the first draft.

But how many drafts are you supposed to write? Where is that fine line between honing a work and polishing a turd? When do you accept something as a failure–nay, a learning experience?

I think the answer is when it is holding you back.

Perhaps you’re too focused on that one piece that you’re neglecting to think of others. What you imagined was your opus is now your albatross. Something a colleague once said to me in the editing room, “You just have to let it go, man.”

Let it go.*

Sounds easy, sure. But, wow. It’s not.

Continue reading “Reworking a Draft”

A Thought Experiment for Time Travellers

Indulge me this: you’re a time traveller. It’s an ordinary day. The fate of the world is not in jeopardy. No damsels to save. No timelines to correct. To angst to stew over. Everything is perfectly fine. You can enjoy yourself.

So you go to a bar.

And who do you see in that bar, but yourself.

You don’t know if it’s past you or future you. But it is definitely you.

Oh no. You’ve made eye contact.

What do you do?

Do you talk to yourself? Do you run screaming?

What do you do?