Saturday, July 31, 2010

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


I can't say that it has changed the way I think about my life, but I am happy to have read it, I'll give it that much.

What was great: the stuff on motorcycle maintenance, the personal story between the author and his son, and the descriptions of the landscapes and natural landmarks on their trip.

What got to be too much for me: The on and on about Phaedrus. I understand that much of this was about this man's journey not only on the bike, but to figure things out in his head (had had been previously treated in a mental hospital), but I have to confess, toward the end I really had to flip through a lot of the philosophical chapters because they just went on forever and there was nothing I could grasp onto. Hell, I didn't even realize he was talking about himself (Phaedrus) until about halfway through, big dummy I am. . .

Much like with Main Street, though, I am grateful to have kept on with it, because the ending was everything. I was hopeful for a redemption, a connection with the son, even a dialogue that would smooth things over, but man, I didn't expect what actually happened (it was good, I think). It made me sad to read in the introduction that his son had since been killed; it definitely would have been a different, more naive reading experience had I skipped the intro, which is something I commonly do. I think every reader will get their own something different out of this novel, I encourage us all to go for it, there are many gems to be found:

"'Peace of mind isn't at all superficial, really,' I expound. 'It's the whole thing. That which produces it is good maintenance; that which disturbs it is poor maintenance. What we call workability of the machine is just an objectification of this peace of mind. The ultimate test's always your own serenity. If you don't have this when you start and maintain it while you're working, you're likely to build your personal problems right into the machine itself.'"

(!!!) I enjoyed little things like these.

Search Amazon.com for zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

Monday, July 26, 2010

Our Daily Meds

Hmmm. What to say, how to say it. . . delicately. This was very much like reading a Michael Moore book.

I don't like a lot of doom and gloom, unless it's fiction (this was non-fiction). But even in fiction there has to be some light, some possibility of light, something related to joy, or I'm out; this perhaps explains why I never got into Nirvana, like at all. I mean Christ, even Charles Bukowski had a little optimism and humor, right?

There is a lot of information in this book, and it's presented intelligently, is very organized, and is very thorough. There are some scare tactics. I didn't like that. I read a lot of this in the bath tub, and mostly I imagine my face frozen in a grotesque scowl for much of it. I don't even want to start listing the negative things (fake diseases, doctor payoffs, fatal side effects, etc.), well, there, I guess I listed some, but bottom line? SPEND YOUR TIME AND MONEY KEEPING YOURSELF HEALTHY SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO DEAL WITH ANY OF THIS.

And if you're anything like me, maybe come back to this book in the afterlife when it won't matter anymore, spend this life reading things that have happy endings.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

1408: Film vs. Book.

And before I get going with this, I don't want to hear anyone start in with that "book is always better" shit, I know all about this. Hell, I agree most of the time, but there are notable exceptions to this rule (hello, Twilight?) So chill, okay?

For the first time, I think I can understand a writer's frustration with what his or her original material becomes on the big screen. King seemed to dig the film adaptation all right, and maybe he's used to this by now, but in my opinion, they completely missed the fright effect that was in the book. John Cusack was fine; he obviously knows what he's doing, and most of the effects were fine too, but it just wasn't scary enough. I say this because for me, 1408 was literally the most terrifying thing I'd ever read of King's; I was very worried about having this all come to life on the screen (nightmares) but was kind of let down by it not being scary and not being at all true to the original.

What I did not like:

The back story (wife, daughter, issues with father). I get why they did it, they needed to make this a feature length, but it was tired.

Sam Jackson as Olin. I love Samuel Jackson, just not in this.

All the scary things the hotel did to him were too physical, too obvious. (toilet paper re-folding itself, chocolate appearing on bed, images of former guests offing themselves, etc.) Nothing subtle about any of that.

I'm still on the fence about the room itself. I know The Dolphin was supposed to be an upscale establishment, but something about the room itself was almost too Martha Stewart for me. Enslin's reaction to the room upon entering matched my own, "this is it? Woooo! Where's all the scary shit?"

The ending did not do it for me, not even a little.

What I liked:

John Cusack pulling off a one-man show. He had to act plenty crazy for most of this, and he did a great job. The scene where he's freaking out at the mini-bar? Probably my favorite. What a spaz! He had some great one-liners, which I didn't expect.

Speaking of mini-bar: a tiny Olin appearing inside it to berate him during all of this? "Is the room exceeding your expectations?" "YOU KNOW GOD DAMNED WELL IT IS!" Nice! I giggled.

Some of those images of the dead people coming at him were actually scary and jarring. That old dried up corpse, chasing him through the vents, and the way the feet were swinging and swaying and flopping all over the place? What was that, kabuki cage match in a vent? That was funny. Sometimes you need a little comedy in a scary film ("Please God Let it be Ding-dongs," and Dwayne Duke kissing Mother Bates' corpse, etc.).

The attempt to reach the next window only to discover all the other rooms have vanished. Bricks in the windows, map on the door shows only 1408. I dug that a lot.

The little trick of not really being out of the room, and how the post office just rips itself open to reveal that he's really still in 1408. So the room has a bit of a sense of humor? Cool.

The last bit on the telephone with the "operator?" Clock setting itself up for another hour of good times while the chick on the phone asks if Enslin would like to take advantage of the express checkout? (Noose drops sharply from above and follows him from room to room!) Then the whole "EIGHT! THIS IS EIGHT! FIVE, THIS IS FIVE! ALL YOUR FRIENDS ARE DEAD!" That was true to the original and that shit freaked me out. The phone melting afterwards was a nice touch, too.

What I liked about the book and wished they had included in the film:

The subtlety of it all, scary things CAN be subtle. In the book, he comments into his recorder about how something reminded him of his brother, and then adds, "My brother was actually eaten by wolves one winter on the Connecticut Turnpike." (this is not true.) They tried to be clever or true with this in the film by showing it in some creepy scrawl on the file of stuff he was carrying, but because nothing was ever addressed in regard to this brother, it meant very little. They did the same with "Burn Yourself Alive" written on the wall (the methods of burning and the consequent endings actually were quite different between the two).

The tilting of the doors and the sea-sickness it caused in Enslin just by looking at them. Then the way all the framed art changes inside the room once things begin to go awry. Fruit into severed head. Madonna holding baby grows fangs, etc.

"fuming oranges" and "it feels like skin, like old dead skin" little thoughts like this.

A lot of attention was given to the orange look and feel of the room, the light, one of the hanging pictures was of fruit, the coverlet of the bed which tinted everything else, etc. Proximity to fire? To evil? I don't know but it added something gross, for sure. The film room was too pretty or something, like I said before.

"He tried not to touch the coverlet, either, but the tips of his fingers brushed it  and he moaned. It was soft in some terrible wrong way. . . Nevertheless, he picked the menu up. It was in French, and although it had been years since he had taken the language, one of the breakfast items appeared to be birds roasted in shit. That at least sounds like something the French might eat, he thought, and uttered a wild, distracted laugh.
He closed his eyes and opened them.
The menu was in Russian.
He closed his eyes and opened them.
The menu was in Italian.
Closed his eyes, opened them.
There was no menu."

Why cut that from the film or avoid it altogether? That would have been great!

"'I have to get out of here,' he whispered, and blundered back into the sitting room.  He became aware that his shoes had begun to make odd smooching sounds, as if the floor beneath them were growing soft."

and

". . .  he could feel no fresh air against his face. It was as though the room were swallowing it. He could still hear horns on Fifth, but they were now very distant. Did he still hear the saxophone? If so, the room had stolen its sweetness and melody and left only an atonal reedy drone, like the wind blowing across a hole in a dead man's neck or a pop bottle filled with severed fingers or--
Stop it, he tried to say, but he could no longer speak."

This just really got to me, both times I read it. Very, very creepy. It was a great little story, and I think the word little is key. It was too short to be a great film, but I think they made it into an okay film.

Book wins, easy. But I did have to fight back a few images of the crazy vent-crawler when trying to get to sleep. . .





Blood and Smoke (audio book)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

From the Heath Arsenal: Joyce Carol Oates and Raymond Carver.

"Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates.

This is the sort of thing my dad would have probably wanted me to read. His analysis of the story would have been this: A girl puts a sign on her back and then is surprised when some dirty old man comes after her. I have been in this girl's place, many times. It's like I never really believed (at age sixteen) that anyone could ever really want to be with me, that anyone would actually step up to the plate, and when surprise, someone not only steps up but "goes for the gold?" Didn't think this through very well, did I? Not an easy situation, nor a smart one. Girls can be very foolish, I know I was.

 The story deals with budding sexuality in a girl named Connie, and how it sort of goes a bit. . . wrongly. And she does put a sign on her back, that oh-so-coyly-insinuated "I WANT SEX" sign, definitely, but come to think of it, we all did. This is how it goes. Thank God most of us are lucky enough to avoid Leonard Friend, but some of us aren't. When I was reading this, things were fine for most of it, kids doing what kids do, flirting, lying, screwing around, etc., and then Leonard Friend pulls up and is revealed to be what, like thirty years old? I got the chatters. Very well done, this was. Should I make my girls read it when they turn twelve?

"Cathedral" and "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" by Raymond Carver

I liked both of these. "Cathedral" = a blind man teaches a lonely, boring, stoner to "see"; " What We Talk About. . . Love" = two couples trade stories and swig gin and tonics around a table and their inner hostilities emerge. The intro in the Heath text had a lot about Raymond Carver's style, his being a controversial figure, how the writing community was either "with Carver" or against him, I guess this confused me a little. I mean, I thought the writing was direct and honest, but not deadpan, as described. Then again, I love me some Hemingway and metaphors mostly bother me, so I'm not the best judge.

"We didn't say anything for a time. He was leaning forward with his head turned at me, his right ear aimed in the direction of the set. Very disconcerting. Now and then his eyelids drooped and then they snapped open again. Now and then he put his fingers into his beard and tugged, like he was thinking about something he was hearing on the television."

or

"Terri said the man she lived with before she lived with Mel loved her so much he tried to kill her. Then Terri said, 'He beat me up one night. He dragged me around the living room by my ankles. He kept saying, 'I love you, I love you, you bitch.' He went on dragging me around the living room. My head kept knocking on things.' Terri looked around the table. 'What do you do with love like that?'"

I think it works fine. I guess that makes me "with Carver."


Monday, July 19, 2010

Fourth Film I've Walked Out on/Shut Off. . .

ALL ABOUT STEVE, directed by Phil Traill.

I made it eleven minutes. And couldn't do it, not one minute more. I told Matt to put "Eat, Live, Queef" South Park back on instead.

The others, in case you're interested were:
1. Pearl Harbor
2. The Last Samurai
3. Mortal Thoughts.

The first two were legitimate walk-outs and this one and #3 were shut-offs. Ugh.
I can't even think about it anymore, it's too uncomfortable.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Shutter Island, Scorcese, Boxing, Eastwood.

I know that normally when I talk about films in this place, I usually just blather on about what they meant to me emotionally, not really focusing on much other than my perceptions, my experiences as related to media items, my moods, my needs as a viewer, etc., etc. But, as it turns out, I do know a thing or two about cinema.

I thought Shutter Island was good. But here's the thing. I think it was an okay story (for Scorcese, who usually makes films from GREAT stories) but that it was done wonderfully, so the film was good, even if the story was a little ho-hum and full of trickery at the end. I for one never see these things coming like so many others do, so I guess I always lose the figure-out-the-twist-quickest game.

The music was terrifying. The entire boat ride to that place was terrifying; I didn't want them to get off. The creepy music got worse once they got there, all I remember were these deep, jarring minor chords, together with the look of the inmates. . . I was very goose-bumpy. It was all very claustrophobic and dank. Even Ghandi looked crazy most of the time. Once the security went out and they started roaming around on the grounds? I had to shut it off and try again the next night, it was seriously THAT creepy. I like that Marty was able to freak me out a little, normally I just lay back and enjoy a severe beating or rock out with the good tunes and that's the end of it. I also enjoy how Leonardo DiCaprio seems to have grown up so much; he hardly annoys me at all anymore!

(this, to the left, is what I meant by "look of the inmates." Seriously?)

This got me thinking of what I consider to be good cinema. Stephen King wrote in "Low Men in Yellow Coats" about how there are books with good stories, books with good words (or storytelling) and some books that have both, and that we should try to read all kinds. I feel like that with films, too, and I think mostly, Scorcese is a winning ticket. When you watch Scorcese, you're not just watching a story on film, you're usually watching an homage to really any decent Italian Noir director (Visconte, Rossellini, De Sica, Goddard). You know how John Favreau claimed in Swingers that Tarantino "rips everything off from Scorcese," ? Well, Scorcese did a fair share of ripping off from these guys, not that I mind, of course. Watch anything they've done and you'll agree.

Onto boxing (and back to my emotional needs, of course)

I have no interest in the sport whatsoever. I mean, if I had to choose between boxing and ultimate fighting, I think I'd probably choose boxing, but that's the best I can say about it. When I worked at Blockbuster back in the late 90s, there was a kid there who loved Martin Scorcese. We chatted a lot. I was a bit mainstream for him, but once I proved I knew how to do a DeNiro kick and that I knew who The Well-Dressed Gentleman was, he thought I was all right (and this is surprisingly common with people I meet most of the time. They think I'm some sort of mini-van driving, procreating freak but then they flip out when I can actually do something cool, like sing "Anything Goes" in Chinese, ala opening scene in Temple of Doom.) He was shocked and horrified, however, when I neglected to list Raging Bull in my top five favorites. I hadn't even seen it yet, so I had to grab it and man up if I was going to be any sort of film scholar, I guess. I was skeptical because of the not liking boxing thing, but guess what, IT WAS AMAZING. It was a great story, it was wonderfully acted by DeNiro, Pesci, and Moriarty, but really, I think the filmmaking made the film.

In Million Dollar Baby, however, it was mostly about the story. It was smartly done, some nice film stuff (grainy slow down just before she gets her ultimate smack down from the German troll? very cool), and the acting was good. I'm sure I've uttered a few unnecessarily negative remarks about former 90210 actresses winning Oscars in the past, but Hilary Swank did just fine. It's a different kind of acting than acting crazy (Ellen Burstyn), doing accents (Meryl Streep, Krystof Hadek) or generally being someone very much unlike you, the actor, but it's a lot of doing, which is impressive, too. I don't think it was a stretch for DeNiro to have acted many of those fight scenes or arguments with Pesci and Moriarty, but it was probably a lot of hard work to have half his work on the film be done in tip-top muscular fitness, and the other half as a big old fatty. I think this was probably the same for Hilary Swank. The being-acting was the easy part, the doing-acting was what won her the statue---and the doing was amazing (she was RIPPED! She actually did those boxing moves! She can really hit a speed bag!) I was quite impressed. And that stool in the ring? Wow. Like I said, I'm slow when it comes to stuff like that, but I did not see that coming at all!

This is getting a bit long-winded, and I'm sorry, so I'll wrap it up soon, I promise, but I can't talk about any of this without adding my two cents about Clint Eastwood, one of my favorite, favorite guys. He does in this film what he does best, which is to play the man he always plays. The man he always plays is very close to my heart because it's more or less a spot-on impersonation of my old man. My dad could be gruff. He wouldn't talk to anyone he didn't like. He was crabby a lot. Once my grandmother (his mother-in-law) asked him why he was always so short with her; he said,

"Because I don't like you." He could be very blunt, my dad.

To see Clint Eastwood, in acting roles, together with a younger daughter type will always bring back these memories, however flawed they are and however flawed he was, of Dewey. I watched my first Eastwood film with him (Dirty Harry). I defended Robert Kincaid over Thanksgiving dinner when my aunt was doggin' him (Bridges of Madison County). I get teared up at the scene where Tyne Daly, the 70s precursor to Maggie Fitzgerald, gets shot in The Enforcer; "Harry, oh, I messed up," she says, Harry kneels down next to her, "No, you did just fine, babe."

That always severe and annoyed look on his face, and the way something ALWAYS melts it. . . just crushes me, every time. The greatest things, for me, in Million Dollar Baby were the bagpiper processional to her fight with the German Troll ("I got you some pipers") and the *SMILE* on his face when she belted that bitch almost to the mat. He never smiles!




Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Broken.

A decent enough book, an autobiography of William Cope Moyers and his struggle with addiction. I have to confess, I didn't really "read" this, I skimmed it and picked up the juicy parts, if you will, much like I used to do with Stephen King novels in high school. And also, another confession, I did not really like Mr. Moyers very much at first. Parents decent enough, involved in his life, smart kid, good opportunities, etc., etc. Many times I wondered, okay dude, really, what's your beef? I also grew tired of always having to read the wonderfully supportive letters from the parents because in a way I felt like the letters were serving to support his whole complex of suffering too-perfect parents who created a lose-lose situation for him and ultimately belittled him into escape through his addiction since he could never be the perfect son they deserved. Like, see how perfect my dad is? See how much my mother cares for me? I had no choice, right? No one should be expected to handle this, right?

I don't think I need to express how disgusted I was when he left his wife, two year old and four month old for the crack house. . .

But then I read the second half, read more about his recovery and started to understand him more. Not like him more, but understand him, which I think is key to learning from his story. I have never been "in the trenches" with addiction, as Moyers liked to say, but I'm not a stranger to what it's done to other people. Reading his descriptions of how he felt when he used, how time stood still, how his euphoria overtook him and was all that mattered, and the ten strong orgasm feel of his first hit from the crack pipe was amazing and honest. I like honesty. I'm sure it was hard to tell many parts of this story, but he did it and did it well. I am happy he got himself well; maybe others can read about his story and make themselves well too.

A good passage:
"Sit in it," my counselor Richard Morgan told me, "Face it head on. Face the pain, the anger, the fear, loneliness, sadness, and shame. Don't hide. Face it without asking for an answer or a solution. Face it knowing the outcome is beyond your control and what matters is accepting that it hurts and the reason it hurts so much is because you can't do anything about it. It just is. Being human hurts.
     "Face it, and when you pray don't always expect God to say yes. God answers all prayers but sometimes the answer He gives us is no. Face the no, the negative, the emptiness and nothingness that is at the center, because facing it is the act of faith itself, and it is not something we ever complete but a daily struggle to find peace in the midst of the chaos, relief at the heart of the suffering."

Inspiring.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This is Exciting. . .

Jeff Fahey apparently has a big role in it, too!
See you there?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fun With the New York Times.

Normally I don't read newspapers. I pick up a crossword puzzle from time to time, but I don't read any of the articles because they disturb me; I don't like feeling disturbed. I realize this is a ridiculous way to go through adult life, but seriously, one more story from the Star Tribune's Metro/State section would have literally pushed me over the edge. I cannot know about these things (child abuse, sexual child abuse, severe beatings of toddlers, drunk driving accidents killing toddlers, child pornography rings, etc.) I just refuse.

So I made the mistake of picking up a Sunday Times last night at work as I was carrying some of them to be recycled, thinking, hey, why not just see what's going on in the world? I hesitated but then I rationalized: It can't be that terrible, and I'm sure all the articles will be eloquently written and dripping with intellect, being ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO PRINT and everything.

Yeah.

First story, cover story, shanties in Haiti, families living in tents in the middle of the streets where occasionally motorists just plow into them and kill them. No one cares about this, no one there, no one here. And if Americans do care about it, what can they do? Not a damned thing. The page 10 continuation of this story was really special, too. We get a photo of a grandmother bathing her granddaughter in dirty (probably diseased) water SIDE BY SIDE with a resort ad, enticing us all to get away to Los Cabos, Mexico, or Paradise Island, Bahamas ($200 in resort credits! Two $50 Spa Certificates! Two Rounds of Golf for the price of one!)

Great placement. I was very strongly reminded of the 93X banter the day Paul Wellstone was killed: "And very sad news here, just now, we've gotten confirmation that the plane that crashed over Evelyth was indeed carrying Senator Paul Wellstone and his family; just a terrible tragedy. Yeah. But COMING UP NEXT ON 93X, WE'VE GOT YOUR MARILYN MANSON TICKETS THIS WEEKEND. . ."

I don't like it. The ad on the next page was for platinum coverage for one's Jaguar. I mean, I'm not a communist or anything, but really? Come on.

Is this high intellect? Because it's shockingly low in sensitivity, which shouldn't surprise me really, because it seems that most highly celebrated intellectuals seem to be low in the emotional awareness department. I grabbed the book review next, thinking it was guaranteed to be a safe choice. . . Not one bit, actually. I started reading one review and remembered why I quit reading it years ago, despite how much I love books (talking about books, properties of books). These people, the people who write reviews for the New York Times book section are not nice, usually. Even if they write a positive review of something, they still end up describing it as though they hate it, hate life, and hate the very essence of creativity. They can't say one positive thing without dogging fifty other things first, in words or literary references. God forbid anyone just say what they fucking MEAN. I get annoyed by this and I get scared by it. I envision what some reviewer would say about my stuff. . . and I end up doing something drastic in response, like selling all my writing books or consider becoming a health professional.

But now that I'm (much) older, I can at least be honest and realistic about what it is that I'm trying to do, and how much or how little I care about what others think of it. I write my shit because I want to, and honestly, I write it for myself. If I ever became even a tiny bit like any of the writers for this newspaper, I would know that I've completely abandoned everything meaningful and everything I've ever held sacred in my life. The poor mama's boy who didn't get enough out of his daughter's birth experience because his wife delivered herself in the family bathroom? Gross. Alterna-dad, taking off when his son was an infant because he needed to tour with some ridiculous fake band he was in? Grosser. Countless women, professionals who obviously hate their children and can find REAMS of pages to describe how trapped and burdened they feel by motherhood? Grossest. I don't care how brilliant you are, if I can't sense at least a little humanity inside you, I don't want to know you or what you do.

I tried hard to find humanity in the New York Times, but I don't think there was any.

*And to Will whats-your-tree who did the first book review: do not insult LOST fans, it was NOT a botched rune of a show. I hate you.

Yes, this was completely reactionary and personal. And I won't make this mistake again.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Matthew Fox deserves an Emmy.

I don't think he'll get it, though, I think it will go to Bryan Cranston. After thinking hard about the whole series I have discovered that I really do enjoy Matthew Fox's portrayal of Jack Shephard.
Here's why:

1. He's the best male cry-er I've ever seen. That can't be easy, just ask Ray Wise (Leland Palmer).
2. He was completely aloof, condescending, and crabby for most of the series (like most doctors I have known). I suppose this counts for believability.
3. Once he gets the job done, if you will, the difference in him is something that will forever choke me up inside. Seeing him actually smile inside that church, like, really smile? Was so striking a contrast from the normal Jack Shephard. . . I really enjoyed that.

My favorite emotional scenes with Jack? The exchange in episode 23 right before Sawyer launches the raft. . . tells Jack about Christian in the bar (the crying!) and Jack identifying Christian's body in the morgue (and the crying!) And the little tiny bit of dialogue between Jack and Kate on the way to the radio tower ("Why'd you stick up for Sawyer, he'd never do it for you. . ."  "Because I love you.")

The little furrowed brow? (!!!)
Even if you don't win, Matthew, I still think you did a bang up job.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Third Favorite Media Event, Ever:

Singing in the Rain, directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen. And if you want to know what #1 and #2 are, you're just going to have to wait. (If you know me at all, you fully know what these things are anyway, HINT: focus of my art and HINT: names of my children)

As well as being my third favorite media event, it's also the only musical that I can actually stomach. I had to watch this in my senior film class at the U, SCMC 5001. It was a wonderfully difficult class, I wanted to BE the professor, and the infamous Peter Greg was also in this class. Peter Greg was a guy who was taking film classes for graduate credit, had some sort of media degree from NoDak or Moorehead or some random place, and LOOOOOOOOOVVVVVED to condescend to everyone as often as possible. This is the guy who tries to dog on The Sopranos AND CLAIM THAT SEX AND THE CITY WAS A BETTER SHOW in class and no one (including me) had the balls to argue with him. Later, in my screenwriting class, he tried to trash-talk Temple of Doom and after that I christened him my enemy. He probably loves musicals, too.

Anyway. I love this film. It's so, SO well done. The colors! The sarcasm! THE CHOREOGRAPHY? I challenge anyone to top "Moses Supposes," done with what, maybe four edits the entire scene? These guys couldn't rely on jump cuts (like Chicago) or stand-ins, they were actually getting it done themselves.


This is one on the AFI list that everyone should see, really.

Monday, July 5, 2010

July Book Stack


Getting Lost, I am Legend.

Finished up the June Books a few days late.

1. Getting Lost by Orson Scott Card. Part of the Smart Pop book series, first published in 2006, this collection is made up of fifteen essays and an encyclopedia that cover the first two season of the show. Some essays are very good (Oceanic Tales; Have You Been Framed? and Cosmic Vertigo on the Isle of Lost) some are marginal, I won't name names. There is a reading list, of course, probably because you can't talk about Lost without talking about books and stories too, but David Lavery's (Lost's Buried Treasures) is much more in-depth. There are some cool suggestions made; one essay author totally called what ended up happening with Hurley, another posits deep meaning while analyzing Jack's tattoos. Bottom line? It's fine. Did not blow my skirt up, though.

DICK MATHESON, HOWEVER, IS A HORSE OF A DIFFERENT COLOR.



2. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, a collection of short stories, many of them first published during the 50s. I snagged this from the Book Nook (that I co-created) at Starbucks, how glad I am that I did! First off, I AM LEGEND? I doubt there was ever a better book title, anywhere. This entire collection was right up my proverbial alley, all the way. Many of the stories had connections to Twilight Zone episodes, I'm sure many of them became Twilight Zone or Night Gallery episodes (The Near Departed, Prey, Dress of White Silk, Mad House, From Shadowed Places). I also could tell that these must have influenced Stephen King, too, because some of the prose seemed very similar, but more housebroken than King, calmer, grandfatherly, if that makes sense. I very much enjoyed all of them. I haven't seen the film yet, it's next on my netflix, but really I cannot wait. And while I Am Legend was probably the most engaging, the weightiest story in the collection, it was Mad House (a writer is full of rage because he cannot write? um. . . ) that packed the biggest punch for me. I hope I never become an angry writer, I'd hate to have my bathroom, you know, KILL ME. Also, I would leave this in the bathroom after my bath and every time I did, my daughter would carry it out, refuse to look at the cover, and bury it somewhere. It is rather creepy, I suppose.

All these DID blow my skirt up. It's still up, actually. If you like crafty, scary little stories, read these now.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Eclipse, why I liked it.

I don't have a whole lot of time to make this sound eloquent, so as usual, it's a list.

1. Bella was waaaay less annoying than in any of the others, maybe she's over the squinting? She looked prettier, too. I guess Vamp-love must agree with her.

2. Something about Edward Cullen as the jealous high school boyfriend worked for me. I had a few jealous high school boyfriends, none as beautiful or half as intelligent as Mr. Cullen, but I thought it was done well. The nervous tension/anticipation of their night alone in the house together also reminded me of a few things from high school, although quite opposite of what actually ended up happening. . .

3. The landscapes and helicopter shots were brilliant. A few times reminiscent of The Shining, even. Music was right on. The scene where Jacob appears at school? HANDS DOWN BEST SCENE OF THE FILM. David Slade must have quite a film repertoire inside his head, because this was an extremely cinematic sequel.

4. It was funny. Seriously. It laughed at itself. It reveled in its own cheesiness and acknowledged how crazy the world has gone over this Team Edward/Team Jacob hysteria ("Let's face it, I am hotter than you," in the tent? My second favorite moment). It was subtle when it needed to be, it was epic and Matrix-y when it needed to be. The wolves fighting? Amazing. The snapping noises when a vampire was torn apart? Amazing. Obviously the sound team was a brilliant bunch of people.

5. Every time the wolves came on I damn near cried. There is just something wonderful and powerful about them (team Jacob, btw).

6. The histories of both the wolf tribe and two of the Cullen vampires was crucial (not only to the story but to making me stop hating the Cullens). It added, dare I say, depth?

If this sort of thing would have come out during my high school career, it's safe to say that I would
1. be a solid member of Team Edward, and
2. see this film in the theater at least 11 times.

It's FUN, you should try it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Birthday. Nudity. Insanity?

My favorite birthday present? Purchased from Cafe Press for the bargain price of $11! I sometimes think that I would like to hole up in my own private sweat shop and sew these sorts of things, but for such a low price, I decided that I would just go for it, isn't it nice?

I plan on flashing this around everywhere I go (which is no where, really), trying to look super cool and nerdy all at once. Would it be overkill if I carried a coffee with one of my Dharma sleeves at the same time? Like anyone would notice. . .


Nudity? Again?



from the Heath arsenal: "The Madman" by Chinua Achebe.
also by Chinua Achebe: Arrow of God, Things Fall Apart, Man of the People, No Longer at Ease, and Anthills of the Savannah


A promising young villager's pride leads to his ultimate undoing as he fiendishly chases a homeless man into the marketplace (naked).

This was lovely. It takes place in Nigeria, during the uprising by the Igbo tribe against the government, for which Achebe, the author, has been seen as a spokesperson. It's interesting to see the comparisons between what the well-established villagers see as madness or insanity (and how the word gets thrown around all the time) and how the homeless, wandering man is also seen as being "mad" but is more of just a nuisance.

See, this is where modesty (or paranoia) can really get you into trouble. If Nwibe had just casually strolled back from the lake, naked, and slipped into his compound unannounced, he could probably have escaped this whole business. . . I probably would have gotten back into the water and yelled loudly for someone to bring me some clothes, but then again, there are probably four people ON EARTH who have seen me naked in my adult lifetime, and three of them are doctors, so, you know, I can kind of see the guy's point. (!)

"The Man Who Could See Radiance," by John J. Clayton
also by John J. Clayton: Radiance, The Man I Never Wanted to Be, What Are Friends For? Bodies of the Rich, Saul Bellow: In Defense of Man, and Gestures of Healing.

This. Was. Beautiful.

This is so, so, SO, the kind of thing that was written exactly for me. Coincidentally, this is exactly the kind of thing I would love to write someday. I plan to read everything Mr. Clayton has to offer. Bravo times ten.

"It shone from her eyes, something to do with her eyes, but it was centered at her chest, pulsing out like the northern lights he once saw, visible, not visible, a trick of the light? --oh no, she glowed, out of the suffering something radiated. I can turn this off, he thought. I can examine it critically and get rid of this golden light. . . But he'd always liked her, and all at once he was breathing so fully again after suffocating weeks that he didn't have the heart to try. I know you, know you. He drank his wine and felt vaguely adulterous--and hoped they couldn't see."
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