A postscript about the blog below: Notice something odd about the photo of Jennifer Garner? The one that shows her as a blonde wearing a tight blue dress. Look closely at her chest. Okay, guys, you can stop staring now.
She’s got a double set of boobs.
Yup, she’s got four. Count ‘em. Two below and two right on top of the others. It’s a boo-boo Alias’s wardrobe queen – or whatever the job title is – should have caught before Jennifer stepped before the camera. It’s also a common phenomenon for which there are only two (of course) known causes:
a) a very large-chested woman is wearing a bra that’s too (two?) small and doesn’t fit well and thus cuts her boobies into upper and lower bulges; or
b) a smaller-breasted woman is wearing a push-up bra or tight dress with too much built-in “bra shelf” padding, thus pushing the real breasts upwards while the tightness of the dress simultaneously pushes the padding outwards.
I believe answer b explains Jennifer’s double breasted problem in this scene.
So let this be a lesson to all us would-be action heroes: when dressing to impress the bad guys we’re up against (literally or metaphorically), we must never forget to first give ourselves a critical look in the mirror. If you’re female and seeing double and not because of the martinis you’re sipping, then it’s time to rethink your wardrobe. And if you’re a man and notice you’ve got an extra set of something, you probably shouldn’t go out in public.
When my friend Ann read the first draft of The Compass Master and my description of Layla’s physical appearance, she said something that threw me.
“Thank you for not describing Layla’s breasts.”
Huh? “Her breasts have nothing to do with the action,” said I, flummoxed.
I mean, it had never occurred to me that I should elaborate on the fact that Layla has a pair, although some writers of the male persuasion may disagree (to the weary frustration of their female readers). In the streamlined writing style of thrillers, any excess description slows the pacing. Hence I use only a couple sentences to describe Layla’s face and body, and whenever it’s necessary to paint what she’s wearing I stick to the basics.
But in the subtext of any action tale is the fact that heroes always look damn fine. Why? Because they are the projections of our fantasies. They are what we wish to be. Do we ever want them to show up looking like the average Joe or frumpy housewife? Hell, no. We want stunning. When gorgeous Jennifer Garner in Alias crosses a room in her skin tight cocktail dress, men’s jaws drop. When handsome James Bond walks into a casino in his exquisitely tailored Tom Ford suit, women sigh with desire.
I’m no different when it comes to living vicariously through Layla. Here’s how I describe her through the eyes of Zach, her future lover and fellow protagonist:
Setting: Frank’s place on a Panamanian island (see my October blog entry, Layla and Robinson Crusoe)
He looked up to see Layla Daltry walk out of the jungle and into the café. She was just this side of beautiful, but there was something about her face that riveted him. Her body was certainly damn fine – lean and athletic. Her shorts and sandals showed off her legs, while her sleeveless white shirt was tied up high enough to expose a small waist damp with sweat.
Stop laughing, reader. You know perfectly well that every woman wants to make an entrance like that. Switch genders in the above passage (Indiana Jones emerges from the jungle, yonder sits woman mesmerized by his manliness), and that’s what men want, too. We all want to be desired. We want to stand out from the crowd.
In everyday life I sometimes see just such a man or woman. They don’t necessarily have the best-looking faces or bodies; instead they possess a kind of flair that makes you do a double take.
There used to be a visitor to the building where I work whom I dubbed Mr. GQ. The longish cut of his hair and the cotton scarf tossed carelessly over his shoulder was enough to make me follow him down the hallway. Then there’s the very young woman who sometimes rides the same bus I take to work. She can put together a few simple items of clothing with so much style she’s always cute as a bug and as fashionable as a French model.
Am I sounding mightily superficial? Absolutely. Is appearance so important? Not in the greater scheme of things. But remember this blog is about my becoming like Layla. It’s about the world found in thrillers and action movies with – my own preference – archeological and historical mysteries. And to fit into this character and this world, I need to get more of an edge to my wardrobe and overall appearance. I also just plain want to keep breaking out of the blandness the business world keeps sticking me in.
This is why I’ve had a personal body and wardrobe makeover underway for several months now. And it’s why action fashion will be the subject of my next (and shorter) blog entry.
You know that scene in Die Another Day when James Bond fences with the billionaire bad guy? It’s completely over the top, of course. There’s more swashbuckling than true fencing going on, especially when they switch from epees to real-life sabers and then broadswords and brawl their way through a super-swank fencing club that couldn’t exist outside of movies.
Still, the scene is fun and I like watching it. But there are two points (pun intended) that bug the hell out of me.
First point: Why can’t James Bond be really lousy at something?
I mean, come on already! Yes, Bond is the ultimate fantasy action hero for men, but fantasy without limits becomes delusion. And except for being a flop at long-term relationships, Bond can always do everything in the universe. He can even whip an Olympic-level fencer despite the fact that he himself seldom has time to practice the sport because he’s so busy saving Western Civilization. Which leads me to the…
Second point: Only days before out-fencing said Olympic-bound athlete, Bond had been released from a North Korean prison. For fourteen months he was beaten, tortured, kept in a cold cell where he could do nary a push-up, and when he unsteadily walks away from his captors, he’s clearly a physical wreck. But give him one night in Hong Kong and a day or two in Cuba, and he’s in tip-top shape once again. Even his fencing reflexes are back up to par.
Let me tell you about those fencing reflexes. If you don’t fence for just a couple months, you can tell your game is off.
Mine certainly is. As you know, fond readers, I had to give up fencing because my car died and the weather was frigid and I was really busy at work and I didn’t get a new car until mid-January. Finally after two months of being away from the sport, I was back at it the first week of February.
I sucked all week.
I lost every bout I fenced. I swear to God I had the reflexes of an old cow. By the second week I improved, but my reflexes were still uneven, my bad habits had resurfaced like nasty warts, and without realizing it I was falling back on purely defensive tactics.
“ATTACK!” one fencer advised me after he had creamed me 10-2. “You have to attack more!”
His words hit me like a brick. All that night and the next day, I kept thinking about his simple command: ATTACK. Because I really don’t attack enough, do I? Not in fencing, not in my professional life, not in my love life, not in my writing career, not on so many levels. And I don’t mean being obnoxiously aggressive, but rather taking on the barriers that stand in the way of where I want to go and what I want to do. Maybe this is because I’ve gotten tired. Maybe it’s because settling into a kind of comfortable passivity is so easy. I know my chronic lack of rock-solid confidence doesn’t help. And there’s the whispering fear of failure.
Whatever the reason, I can now see that I really haven’t been attacking my own life as much as I should – attacking it with joy, with excitement, with exuberance, with a devil-may-care abandon. Yes, I’m taking on all kinds of physical challenges in this Becoming Layla plan of mine. But emotionally, I really don’t think I’ve been aggressive enough in my day-to-day life. I have not been brave enough. I’m not really going full-barrel after all the things that I want.
And that, of course, is where James Bond gets it right. What he wants he gets because he always goes for it in a full attack mode. Yes, he’s a fantasy figure. He’s got the Power of Myth behind him. But sometimes acting like the heroes in our favorite myths can give us a personal power, including the power to change our lives.
I’ve just discovered that there’s a school in Colorado for real-life ninja warriors.
I am not making this up. It’s called SWAN which stands for Shadow Warriors Association of Ninjitsu. Seems that these SWAN people run a summer camp in the mountains where they teach “a reality based modern combative system of martial arts” in the “diverse and deadly modern art of the Ninja.”
I believe it’s safe to say that this is a summer camp for grown-ups and not grade school tykes. It’s also not a place for practicing the fun Ninja Warrior show stuff I wrote about in an earlier entry. On the other hand, the website does say that at this place, just as at a kid’s summer camp, you’ll meet new people and make friends “that you’ll remember for a lifetime.” Yes, I’m sure I would remember anyone attempting to stab, strangle, kick, stomp, throw, or pretty much just kill me.
The SWAN courses range from a 5-day to 14-day and ultimately a 30-day “intensive experience” and can include hand-to-hand combat along with “unarmed, stick, knife, and gun disarms coupled with applied stress sparring.” Understandably, such experience doesn’t come cheap and reeks of macho sweat, so I won’t be able to sign up even for the shortest one anytime soon. But for fun, check out their website, which you can find at http://www.ninjitsuwarrior.com/
The site also has a couple interesting articles such as “Surviving Multiple Attackers” and “The Secret of Ninja Stealth Training.” These two alone could really use some editing, but in SWAN members’ defense they don’t offer courses on writing. (PLEASE, guys, stop using stealth as a verb, as in “Stealth to the bathroom at work as quietly as possible.”)
I believe I can go on the record and state that Layla herself might take the 5-day course, but is more likely to concentrate on in-town martial arts classes. In contrast, two of the bad guys in The Compass Master could pretty much run the SWAN camp, and they really wouldn’t care if you had a good time or made friends.
I’m a writer, author of The Compass Master, and this blog had been a record of my efforts to be like its action hero Layla Daltry. I did everything from skydiving to picking locks to bashing myself up in sports like parkour. But 2013 will be my do-or-die year. If Compass or my two forthcoming Charity MacCay novels don't sell fabulously well, I'm giving up writing. Forever. Except maybe blogging.