A few weeks ago, my soon-to-be wife and I went out to a local mall to catch the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. I’d mostly looked forward to the flick, but only “mostly”–I didn’t enjoy the same rush of breathless anticipation I saw many others experience. I largely avoided most discussion of the movie, as I didn’t want either the storyline or the experience to be ruined, but I went in with hopes higher than I perhaps should have, for a very simple reason: I hoped watching the final installment and seeing the full story would cast new light and understanding on the second installment, The Dark Knight, which I’d found problematic for several reasons.
Sequels are notoriously difficult movies to make–it’s the rare sequel that turns out to be better than its predecessor. And where sequels are difficult, second installments in trilogies are nearly impossible. The few shining examples–The Empire Strikes Back, for example–only highlight how difficult it is to make a proper second installment.
Launching a novel, especially independently, is an anxiety-filled endeavor. Every author faces the stomach-churn that comes with the launch of a novel, but I’d stake a claim that anxiety is doubled for an independent author, who not only faces the daunting challenge of both reaching new readers and hoping those readers don’t respond negatively, but also faces the general negativity of the publishing industry–including literary agents and editors associated with corporate publishers–as a whole.
As Nina has been prepping her novel for publication, we–we being myself and several of her other friends–have been discussing writing and publishing. We’re a diverse group of writers still emerging, still building, still working, still aspiring. We don’t have contracts with big corporations. A couple of us don’t have books out. But we write, and that’s what counts.
And given that we write, and given that we’ve been discussing writing and publishing, lately, we’ve been discussing Amanda Hocking. How can an aspiring writer not, nevermind to what said writer aspires to. Regardless of whether a writer wants millions of dollars or millions of readers, Hocking seems exemplary of a case study of success.
(There’s always an “except,” isn’t there?)
Now, I’m going to break from discussion, because I’ll not put words in other writers’ mouths. But I’ve noticed Hocking, and her work, and her story, and I’ve gotten a couple samples of her work, and I’ve got to be honest: I don’t get it.
Then again, I didn’t get Twilight, either.
Still, a million teenage girls (and their moms) and the millions of dollars they spent can’t be wrong.
I wrote this as a comment elsewhere, but I think it deserves a spot of its own.
Isn’t one giant issue with the entire substitution that students aren’t going to know Huck used the word if their teachers don’t tell them he did?
Because they’re going to have to do so. Otherwise, Twain’s novel is changed completely. Doesn’t it entirely change the nature of the relationship between Huck and Jim? Doesn’t it entirely change Jim’s character and his motivations?
Do we really trust teachers to prequel every reading of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with that information?
Teacher: “Now class, we’re about to read what was once a very controversial novel, but we’ve made it more appropriate for your reading pleasure.”
Student: “How did you do that?”
Teacher: “We changed a word.”
Student: “Just one? Which one? Did Twain drop the f-bomb? I didn’t realize they had the f-bomb back then.”
Teacher: “No, it’s more egregious than the f-bomb.”
Student: “What’s ‘egregious’ mean?”
Teacher: “Bad. It was worse than the f-bomb.”
Student: “Worse than the f-bomb? What’s worse than the f-bomb? Did he say the c-word?”
Teacher: “Er. What’s the c-word?”
Student: “You know. The c-word. Rhymes with bunt.”
Teacher: “Where did you learn that word?! Er. But no. Not that one.”
Student: “Well which one? What’s the first letter?”
Student: “N? Er. What begins with ‘n’? Nincompoop? That’s not so bad.”
Teacher: “It wasn’t nincompoop.”
Student: “Um. Nutcracker?”
Teacher: “No. It was a word people used to call black people.”
Student: “Oh. You mean ‘nigger’?”
Teacher: “Yes, precisely. That’s what Huck used to call Jim. Now he calls him a ’slave.’”
Student: “But then that whole description of Jim’s having been a ‘free slave’ doesn’t make much sense.”
Teacher: “Well. Perhaps not. But we’ve avoided using a terrible word.”
Student: “‘Nigger’? Well, yeah, it’s awful, but Kanye and Tupac say it all the time. Why not Twain? It’s just his book. He was writing, like, 100 years ago. It was a lot different then, wasn’t it? It’s not like white folks go around dropping the world all willy-nilly now, is it? Honestly, you’ve wasted a lot of valuable time doing something trivial when we could have been discussing race in American in the 1800s and how it’s evolved, both in publishing and in culture, over the past century and a half. Honestly. What are you getting paid for, anyway?”
Seems like this week is always rather retrospective. Years in review, all that. Lots of sites running “Top Stories of 2010″ posts, as though what wouldn’t have been news again last week suddenly is solely by virtue of when it was news. It’s like the East Coast blizzard froze the whole world, which is stuck hoping for thaw to begin tomorrow.
I thought about doing some best-of posts. The decade-best lists are some of the most popular posts on this site. Yesterday, however, I glanced through a list of movies that came out in 2011 and found precisely two I thought were remarkable: How to Train Your Dragon and The Social Network. The former was a surprise; it had a lot of heart and was a lot of fun, and it managed that rare thing of being a movie aimed at a younger audience that appealed across a wider age range without using irreverent humor and other such innuendo-based means. With Shrek, one of the things that increased its appeal was jokes that kids wouldn’t have gotten; it worked on multiple levels; Dragon, on the other hand, stuck mainly consistent in just trying to tell its story, and I think it was a better movie for it.
The Social Network demonstrates that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Panic Room were flukes from a guy who’s been getting better since the beginning, by which I mean that David Fincher had shown signs of improvement over his career and development as a director in years previous by making movies that were consistently better than the ones before. Se7en was fantastic after Alien3. The Game is underrated, and then there’s Fight Club, and then, just when you think that he’s got a style, signature shots, all that, Zodiac, which was the first time he just turned the camera on and followed the story (which isn’t to say his obvious style didn’t serve his other movies). And now The Social Network the rise and continued rise of Zuckerberg and Facebook, which was, on all levels, fantastic.
I read other movies people were raving about, but didn’t much like them when I sat down to check them out. Inception, in particular . . . just didn’t do it for me. Funny: I remember when The Matrix came out, and all the people who claimed not to “get it,” that it just never made sense to them, all that, and then watching Inception . . . my initial thought was “So it’s The Matrix but with dreams and less action?”
That thought never went away. It eventually became more negative, in fact, but one of my resolutions this year is to be more positive. Exciting is not about negativity, after all.
You should publish essays on your website, tweets to Twitter, status updates on Facebook. You should use your Kindle to share quotes from books everywhere. You should join online forums filled with people who have similar interests–Konrath mentions the KindleBoards and how great they are for writers but sort of neglects how amazing they are for readers.
Which we all are. And we’re active readers. We’re better readers. We’re exciting readers.
I thought, for a long time, that what was so game-changing, what was so paradigm-shifting, was that we’re all now creators. We’re all publishing all the time. We’re all contributing new information to the cloud and the world.
I don’t think I was necessarily wrong about that. All those things mostly hold true.
But then I got to thinking, that’s not really what’s changed. That’s a by-product of more activity on our parts.
The biggest companies in the world right now are Google and Facebook. The former is, I think, the more important because it signals a new service. It’s a search engine. It took away passive Internet browsing. No longer was the Internet a place of CD-ROMs and free subscriptions to AOL and “You’ve Got Mail.” What Google changed was our ability to seek new and more information (as well as our ability to sift through it). Remember before Google? Back when we had AltaVista and Hotbot and Metacrawler?
No longer do we wait for information. That’s pretty huge.
We Google things. I have a Google search function on my phone. We go on Wikipedia, though we know the information we find there might be erroneous, but maybe we do that because we know that even if the information is erroneous, we can find more information right away. We can find better information. We can find commentary on that information.
We can contribute to that information, and we can change it, and we can create it.
And the faster all that occurs, the less likely traditional modes of media can keep up with it all.
It used to be, in ways, that media created culture. Radio and television delivered sounds and images to our living rooms, and our only control over what we received came in the form of dials and switches; we could change the channel or turn off the set, but that was about it. If we wanted books, we had to wait to see what corporate publishers had deemed worthy of our attention two years before. Movies, too: from optioning of screenplays to delivery of celluloid, at least a year would pass.
The time it takes to create something worthwhile might not have changed (and continues to vary), but the time it takes to access and manipulate it has. Do any of us merely read when we come online anymore? Or do we all go to news sites we frequent, share posts on Twitter and Facebook, contribute to commentary?
When was the last time you got news from CNN or MSNBC? How about the last time you got it from Twitter?
It seems like we’re moving into times of cultural responsibility, and we’re taking such responsibilities away from the people who traditional took control of them as we notice that many of those institutions gave up their reins. One of the biggest arguments people tend to make against so-called “self-publishing” is that it’s not vetted, there’s no quality control, etc.
And then they buy and publish A Shore Thing by Snooki.
We’re the upstart crows. We’re the Johannes Factotums. We are the creators and contributors, channels of inspiration and information. And we’re not just living in exciting times.
Not long ago, I went to a Philly bar called Eulogy with my best friend. This bar is a Belgian sort of pub one feature of which is a private room with a table like a coffin, and this best friend is a guy earning his master’s in literature but who also moonlights as a keyboardist in one band and a lead guitarist in another, which I hope will intimate the overall atmosphere. If only because my buddy and I have the conversation where we discuss Derrida but totally admit to neither ever reading or understanding the guy.
Over the course of (several) fine Belgian beers (Rochefort 10 ftw!), we started talking about Heath Ledger and The Dark Knight. Now, what you have to know, straight off, is that while we’re good buddies, he and I rarely agree on anything related to either music or movies. We both like music in general and good music in particular, but we have very different definitions as to what that exactly means.
Also worth remembering: that tomorrow is not so much a victory as an opportunity. That it is not nearly so much a culmination as it is a beginning. My greatest hope for the coming Obama administration is that it will help to remind us that the struggle hasn’t ended and may never be over, and that its burden is on our shoulders. That we shall not be lifted lest we lift each other up.
“Forgive that they teared down my soul
Bless them that they might grow old
A dream that’s forgotten may know
That it’s never too late.”
-”Madagascar,” lyrics by W. Axl Rose.
I was, until I then read them, after which I felt decidedly less interested.
I admit I used to be into the Globes and the Oscars. I watched them every year during college. I generally recall very little about the winners; I remember the year Roberto Benigni stepped on Spielberg’s head as he made his way up to accept his acting award for Life is Beautiful, beating out the likes of Edward Norton (American History X), Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan), and Sir Ian McKellan (Gods and Monsters). He didn’t, unfortunately, beat Joseph Fiennes, who was basically the only person not nominated for Shakespeare in Love even though he was, in fact, Shakespeare in love. The only thing I remember about the Globes is the year Jack Nicholson gave part of his acceptance speech (As Good As It Gets, I think) out of his ass, a la Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.
Links to Rolling Stone and the Times Online to discuss real-life superheroes.
By which they apparently mean people who got dressed up for comic book conventions but forgot to take off their costumes (not that you’d want them to). If there were a weight or age limit on spandex (there should be, except for functional purposes), these people would exceed them.
Then again, makes me think. I mean, I’m a reasonably in-shape guy. And I’ve got lots of training. Maybe I should come up with a costume and a name. I think I would just hope people would call me Awesome. It’s better than “That Short Guy with the Vigilante Complex,” which should be TMed, I think.
They (the costumed vigilantes/”superheroes”) attribute their cause to Obama and his call for “active citizenry,” to which I just want to say: don’t blame him. Seriously. Ain’t even in office yet.
What would Axl read, indeed. Somehow his list of four (?!) books surprises me a little, at least given the presence of Dick (whom I’ve always found a little weird) and Stephenson (whom I’ve always found a little baroque).
The article fixates on the similarities between Rose and J.D. Salinger, basically on the whole “reclusive genius” thing. Me, I just like that someone’s saying Rose is a genius. Too often, I think, people who create extraordinarily popular work are looked down on, which has never made sense to me; people acknowledge the Beatles are geniuses, but Stephen King is not?
NB- I would love to somehow get The Prodigal Hour into Rose’s hands. That’d be so rad.
During one of the classes when I mentioned Eddie Izzard, one of my students mentioned a documentary called Heckler. I went to look it up, because I love when comedians pwn hecklers.
Here’s Jamie Kennedy (who, coincidentally, produced the documentary):
Jimmy Carr does it extraordinarily well. Here’s one:
And here’s another:
But it’s not just comedians. Here’s Kevin Smith:
And even Bill Clinton pwning some idiot “9/11 truth conspiracy theorist”:
I mean, seriously. Some people are just douchebags.
Thing is, Heckler turns out to only ostensibly be about heckling; over the course of interviewing Jamie Kennedy, Carrot Top, and Bill Maher (among many others), it slowly became a rumination about criticism. In doing so, it raised some terrific points about critics and their relation to, for lack of a better word, “art,” and especially about the way the Internet has changed things. It featured appearances by writers from CHUD.com and Giant magazine and questioned the idea of random dudes commenting about cinema. Kathy Griffin made an analogy between Internet commenters and hecklers, which I thought was apt, except for one crucial difference:
At a comedy show, the comedian gets to be face to face, even if across a room, with the person.
On the other hand, the Internet allows a degree of cowardice when someone like Shecky Gangrene or, as is most often the case, Anonymous wants to crap on somebody. I swear, I’d often heard quotes attributed to Anonymous before, but the Internet exponentially increased Anonymous’ body of work, which is mostly restricted to little more than saliva-spattered vitriol. I’ve rarely seen Anonymous actually be supportive; usually Anonymous uses the old “I’m sorry, but I’ve just got to be honest with you” to make personal attacks and mostly horrifying comments they’d never make in real life to someone’s face.
And while I’ve never gotten altogether much attention from Anonymous because I’m just a mostly unknown writer still making his way in his work, any attention from Anonymous can feel like too much. Most of the negativity I’ve encountered has come from Anonymous (who most often really, really doesn’t like me). Anonymous most often believes that the ends justify whatever means it is necessary to use, and frequently makes the case that anyone who has earned any degree of spotlight whatsoever must grin and bear it because it comes with the territory and one must develop thick skin.
To which I say: bullshit.
Bill Maher and Dr. Drew (ftw) address it best in the documentary by making two points: first, honesty does not excuse douchebaggery (that’s Dr. Drew), and second, as Maher notes, entertainers can’t develop thick skin. We need some degree of sensitivity because that’s our role in the culture we need to be part of.
Which I think is an awesome point.
The documentary is well worth checking out. Here’s the trailer:
I think my favorite part was the segment dedicated to director Uwe Boll, who challenged his critics to boxing matches and summarily beat the shit out of them. It’s absolutely hysterical to watch as the movie switches back and forth from idiot bloggers making asinine comments like “No, I’ve never watched one of his movies, but I’ve heard their awful” to selfsame bloggers falling to the canvas, culminating in a shot of a twenty-ish blogger lying on the curb, post-fight, wearing a tank top with Sharpie-written “Hi, Mom!” on its back while puking into the gutter.
Apparently, the Rock Gods heard my plea, and Rolling Stone has a review of Chinese Democracy, which will be out in a couple of weeks. David Fricke uses “Was It Worth the Wait” to lead but never really gets around to his own question, so I will:
Chinese Democracy is an epic, sprawling CD that epitomizes for albums what some dude once said about novels; that they’re long fiction with flaws. Chinese Democracy (from what I’ve heard) isn’t flawless, but what great art is?
And yes, I’ll call it art. It’s a term I usually eschew, because most of the time I think it’s pretentious at best and absurd at worst, but I think it’s excellent for what it is. It’s not Beethoven’s 9th, but it is, approximately, Rose’s 5th, and it is absolutely excellent for what it is. It’s loud and blunt and rocking with little restraint, and that’s very much why it’s magic.
I have to admit, I’ve not yet read a John Connolly novel, though by all accounts, his books seem right up my alley. He’s an Irish writer who writes ostensibly crime novels that have, according to his Wikipedia article, become in recent years increasingly concerned with the supernatural.
So yah, got to look me up some of those.
Dude’s won a bunch of genre-type awards: a Stoker for best first novel and a Shamus. And two of his books have apparently come with soundtracks, which is totally awesome (note to self: what is the soundtrack for my writing?).
Connolly recently posted a great blog on the old argument concerning ‘genre’ fiction versus ‘literary’ fiction. It’s well worth reading just to enjoy the pretension of some writers. I mean, holy shit, you think it’s a joke some writers think the way he portrays, and then you meet those writers who not only think that way but even speak that way, and you know for a fact those are the same damned annoying writers who appropriate agent/editor panels at writing conferences to ask deeply personal questions about their deeply personal pet projects and who believe the publishing world is totally against them because it’s a covert and Cabalistic cadre of secret societies and secreter handshakes one can only break into if one compromises one’s ‘artistic integrity.’
He makes a lot of points I agree a lot with, but the money one comes toward the end:
I believe that art and craft are not mutually exclusive. One works at one’s craft, and one hopes that, along the way, art may possibly emerge. Even if it does not, one can still take pride in the fact that one has done one’s best.
I know I got very wrapped up in the election and discussing it. I hadn’t meant to. I hadn’t meant to avoid it, exactly, but I hadn’t realized I would become so focused on it. I think I got so wrapped up in it because McCain/Palin scared me so much, and because I thought there was so much at stake.
A lot of it was wrapped up in my feelings about September 11th. I realized that before, but watching Obama’s acceptance speech drove it home. I’m only 30 and ain’t been alive long, arguably, and missed some major cultural milestones. I may be mistaken, but I don’t think any man has walked on the moon so long as I have been alive. The sixties are full of a lot of cultural imagery that will only ever be grainy footage to me; JFK and RFK and MLK. I came in at the tail end of the seventies, and missed free love and freer sex. While I enjoy the Beatles music in some ways, I still don’t see what the big fuss was about, and by the time I came around, Elvis was gone, too. I enjoy few movies made before 1980, Star Wars being the most notable example.
Still, the other night, watching Obama accept the presidency, I thought of what I have seen. I saw a black man become president of the United States, and while I know that racism is in many ways still alive and perhaps too healthy in America, I think it’s the surest sign there’s hope.
I remember this, too:
Which was in 1987. Two years later, in August 1989, 28 years and one day after it was constructed, that wall came down:
I think a lot of us had that feeling first thing Wednesday morning, just after midnight.
The end of one era, and the beginning of a new one.
(I’ve just realized, too, that 28 years and three days after I was born, I left for USC. That’s kinda neat)
Because the other momentous thing I’ve seen during my lifetime is something that too often hurts too badly to talk about too much. A few weeks ago, I caught the premier for Life on Mars, a show by which I was singularly unimpressed save for a single moment:
I often feel like that day started a time of corruption and incompetence carried through 7 long years. Seven years during which America lost internationally most of what reputation it had, invaded countries it had no right to attack, ‘defending freedoms’ it had already taken away anyway.
I don’t know what Obama will do, nor what he will change. I don’t know that he will be a good president. But I think he has both dignity and integrity, two things the office of the presidency have been sorely lacking for a long, long time (and not just during this past administration. I like Clinton, but dignity and integrity are not words that come to mind when he does), and I feel comfortable enough with the next four years (at least) in his hands.
I don’t think much will change for a while; Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the Berlin Wall didn’t fall the day after Mr. Reagan challenged Mr. Gorbachev. Then again, September 12th, 2001 saw the sun rise on a world completely changed from the one that had existed just 24 hours before, so who knows?
I don’t. But here’s the thing:
While I don’t remember much about the morning of September 11th up to, say, 8:50 or so, it is because that day at that point in my life was unremarkable, which means it was a good morning. It was a morning on which I woke up a little later than I wanted, brushed my teeth, walked a block up to the PATH station at Journal Square. It was a morning I walked from Herald Square at 34th and 7th to my office at 40th and Madison, and if I don’t remember anything out of the ordinary during that several block trek, I will claim it was a good one, because those walks were, back then. They weren’t all sunshine and roses, of course (not many rosebushes on the streets of Manhattan), but after that morning, those walks were different, and they disappeared all together several weeks later.
I cried when I watched Obama’s acceptance speech, just like I cried when Hillary Clinton spoke at the DNC. I cried when I watched McCain concede. Not because I was so happy, though there was that, but because I was feeling something with which I had been unfamiliar for so long. I watched the polls and results with hope but also with caution, and even posted over at Making Light that I would believe it only when he took the oath of office.
Because the thing is, when you’re so scared, when you feel so beaten down, when you get so wound up and anxious, if you feel that way long enough, it can be hard to give it up. Watching Obama speak, I started to give it up. I started to let the sun shine in again. I started to feel myself open again, and that’s something I haven’t felt in a long, long time. Watching Obama speak, I started to realize that things might not always be so dark as I felt they were.
Then again, I also know that I may well be projecting my personal feelings onto those of the country as a whole. I took this election more personally than I took the one in 2004 because I’ve changed in the years since. In 2004, I was working as an assistant editor and living in my parents’ basement; this just a couple of years after I had graduated college with all the promise in the world and gotten a great gig at a prestigious advertising agency. In a way, I think I felt I was going backward if I ever felt much at all, because I know at times I was going just to go, doing just to do, coasting through to get by. This year was personal because I don’t feel that way. I’m working and living and doing. I’ve stopped waiting around for life to happen and started to make things happen, and I think I projected some of that feeling onto the election. I think I felt as though, since I was changing, the world should, too, somehow, in however small or large a way.
I think, too, I felt ready.
I don’t know what the future will hold. I don’t know what tomorrow will be.
But just the hope of it makes me smile at the possibility.
For now, that is something. For now, it is enough.
When I was younger and first breaking from Catholicism, I became very interested in Wicca and paganism. Something about the more natural ways of thought and worship appealed a great deal to me: I am by ethnicity, like, Scotch-Welsh-Dutch (or something); I grew up as a Boy Scout and so was often camping or hiking, which was why I liked the idea of nature as the truest and most accurate expression of the divine (I don’t know about God or Jesus either way, but show me a new day and I know where I stand); and I liked the idea of not having to go to Church or receive Eucharist or pray to know the way of God.
By the time I got to college, that had begun again to change. Studying theology with Robert Kennedy, roshi, S.J. remains one of the most formative experiences of my life, with consequences and repercussions I am even still parsing. Back then, in the way of the arrogance and pretension that became my characteristic for several years, I declared myself a “Zen Christian Wiccan,” because I thought I had discovered over the years that there is, inherently, either no difference whatsoever between prayer, spells, and meditation, or that the differences we perceive between them, like the differences we perceive between Coca Cola and Pepsi, more a result of brilliant advertising campaigns and the placebo effect than anything else.
Sad the news that the 11th Doctor is now on his way
To usurping the Tardis with companions new and d’verse.
Just a few specials before Tennant goes on his merry way
To other projects, other lands, and other roles.
I would call his portrayal of the Time Lord my favorite
But have I in fact on real frame of reference;
I’ve seen no other perform the role, the acts
of heroism and humanity for which I’ve come to know
the Doctor as played by Tennant. Not Eccleston nor
Atkinson, nor Bakers double, Pertwee, or Hartnell.
Indeed, Doctor Who was my favorite with twice
The Tennants in the house of Tardis, as always
Bigger without than within. Much like the show.
With apologies for the bastardization/bardolization. But seriously, there are few things in the world better than either Doctor Who or Shakespeare, and the combination of the two?
I’m sad to hear Tennant is leaving (after a critically acclaimed turn as Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company, mind), if only because he’s the only doctor I’ve ever known. That’s a deliberate choice, too, because he’s the sort of character I want to be. I love the tenth doctor for his childlike glee, for his unflappability, for his grin and his humour. He is one of my all time favorite characters in any medium. Up there with House and the brothers Winchester, not to mention Tristran Thorn, Richard Mayhew, and Fat Charlie.
Actually, what really seems to be happening is that there’s a British driver speeding past cameras in Bavaria. But since he (or she) is British, his (or her) steering wheel’s on the wrong side of the car, so that the cameras, which are set up to catch the driver’s side of the car, are actually catching the passenger’s side. Which would be neat enough, because if dude (or dudette) left it as it was, those crazy Kraut police would be trying to slap the invisible man with some speeding tickets.
But no. Because dude (or dudette) is awesome, and instead of just letting the cameras capture an empty passenger seat, he (or she) is driving with a freakin’ Muppet!.
I would totally pay real, cash money to see a cop pull said car over and then approach the window only to find himself talking to a Muppet.
I wonder if the driver (or driverette) is also taking advantage of the carpool lane.
At least he (or she) chose the right Muppet. I mean, Animal? Totally:
But, like, one would never expect, say, Gonzo or Scooter to be speeding.
Because, of course, Scooter would be riding a scooter.
Which is not unusual; I’ve heard very little criticism concerning the Kindle. People may not rave over it like they raved about the iPod when it first came out, but the Kindle seems, for many intents and purposes, rad. Awesome. Exciting.
Which makes one wonder: if it’s so awesome and exciting, shouldn’t Entrekin be available for it?
Why yes, yes it should be:
Ain’t it purdy? You can click that link to find its shiny new Amazon page.
The timing couldn’t be better, nor, I think, any less coincidental. I’ve been working on the Kindle version since back in August. Not that it took that long, but I mentioned I was going to be changing things up toward the end of October.
I still go back and forth on Lulu. The reason I put Entrekin on the Kindle was that the digital downloads have been so extraordinarily successful, with more than a thousand across the various stories. I like that Lulu allows me to offer the DRM-free .pdfs, not to mention that it also allows for the tangible book for anyone who wants a souvenir. I had a bad experience in Lulu’s community, but then again I’ve realized that if I simply decide to use Lulu solely as the printing press I’d always meant it to be, it does still serve my purposes pretty well, its forums, policies, and customer service notwithstanding (more on those three later, and elsewhere).
So no, I’m not done yet. I’m still curious about a lot of aspects of publishing and the ways it’s changing, so it looks like Entrekin will still be around for a bit. As always, you can get it here.
Thanks to everyone who’s made it such a success so far, and remember to keep telling your friends about it.
Especially if, you know, your friends own Kindles.
(because, really, here, so far, I’m at a loss; where and how does one market to Kindle owners?)
There are few things that excite me more than ambition. A lot of music critics complained that The Killers’ Sam’s Town was too Springsteen-esque/epic, and while I’d be the first to admit it is, in places, sprawling and messy, well, so is sex a lot of the time, and I think we can all agree ain’t nothing wrong with that. “Read My Mind” is one of my favorite songs in recent memory:
And now a new Killers’ CD on the horizon, comin’ up soon: Day & Age drops in late November (the 25th to be exact), and I simply can’t imagine I’m the only one totally looking forward to it.
pay my respects to grace and virtue
send my condolences to good
give my regards to soul and romance
they always did the best they could
and so long to devotion, you taught me everything I know
wave good bye, wish me well.
He’s probably correct. I think I hope he’s correct, in fact. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with blogging, I’ll admit, for personal reasons; while I do love to do it, and I love the instantaneous and often-collaborative nature of it, I feel like . . . well, I feel a lot like it takes away from my real writing. And I hate to say this isn’t my ‘real writing,’ but I’ve never thought of it that way, probably because I use different writing ‘muscles’ to blog than to write . . . well, pretty much everything else. I’ve been discussing with my students the idea of frameworks in writing, and I’ve always thought blogs have a different framework than anything else, probably because everything has its own framework.
I wonder about some of it. At least in terms of the two examples he uses, as both authors are still reasonably early in their careers (lives notwithstanding). Also: I know that part of Gladwell’s schtick, so to speak, is the whole Blink effect; that we decide everything right away, and I wonder if that conflicts with Chris Anderson’s idea of the long tail, i.e., selling less of more. Gladwell’s theories seem to work best on a short-term level; Hollywood blockbusters, first impressions, that kind of thing, but consider the opposite: the movie that has a modest opening but goes forever. It’s rare nowadays mainly because of quirks in distribution, but the idea of the sleeper hit used to be rather more common, I think.
Then again, maybe I wonder because I’m on the closer side to 31, which makes me feel a bit like a late bloomer. I started the novel that became The Prodigal Hour during my senior year of college, for all intents and purposes (though I’d begun the story years before), and I only actually finished it this past, what, July? August? Something like that. Over that decade, there were drafts and revisions and rewrites, over and over again.
Then again, I’m really only 30. I could still make that thirty under 35 list, and I still have a good few years for a shot at it.
But really, I think that what Gladwell misses is that it’s not a binary thing. It’s not an either/or situation, and I neither do I think it’s related to the writer, or the way writers create.
I think it’s related to the story. Some stories simply necessarily take longer than others, in telling and in execution, at least in doing them justice. Some stories take a while for gestation, and some even need to wait until you’ve got the craft to support your talent. During my twenties, I was often told I had a lot of raw talent, and really, I think it took more careful study of craft, not to mention greater discipline, to begin to refine it.
Me, I don’t worry about the timing, so much, most of the time. Most of the time I try not to think too much about the ultimate grail quest of getting published, mainly for the reason that so little of that quest is under my control. Gladwell mentions the market in his essay, which is an important consideration. Especially from my perspective: being a new and unpublished writer, I keep reading doom-and-gloom articles that the current state of the economy means fewer and fewer publishers are willing to take a chance on writers like me.
Then again, I look at that statement and I think: how is that different from usual?
I dig Bill Maher, mostly. Like his stuff. I mean, he’s neither Eddie Izzard nor Jon Stewart, but I do appreciate both his candor and his challenge. I agree with him often, but often mostly in the sense that I agree with Jon Stewart: not in the sense that I’m lefty or liberal or whathaveyou, but more in the sense that I just find the whole system and process completely absurd, as well as many of the participants therein.
I don’t really watch television, though, so I rarely catch Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. I’m sure I could catch recaps, somehow, but I’m rarely so inclined.
I’ll tell you, though: I’m totally inclined to see his new “mock documentary,” Religulous.
I may even start using religulous as an adjective. Seems like, on the hierarchy scale, things would be first ridiculous, and then totally ludicrous, and then absolutely religulous.
Through most of my life, at various times, various people have remarked I look like others. Just a few weeks ago, during an orientation, one of my colleagues decided I reminded her of the lost Baldwin brother. Back when I used to be a substitute teacher, I’d often hear, amid a flurry of giggles, that I looked just like the guy from N’Sync. I’ve reminded people of Jack from Will & Grace and Tom Cruise, Dean Cain back when he was Superman, and even Superman himself.
My favorite, though, has always been and will always be when someone tells me I remind them of a young Paul Newman.
Because, seriously, is there, and has there ever been, and will there ever be, a cooler man?
Which I thought was awesome and highly recommend, though warning for the sensitive ears; there’s some, like, language. And not language like big words or excrement or incest, but words people think are naughty.
So if you can’t handle the word ‘fuck,’ don’t watch that shit, yo.
Back in the day, I used to read Hot Chicks with Douchebags, which I think is a site best enjoyed in small doses; continued reading results in SNL-sketch syndrome, the Internet equivalent of an overextended joke.
But it was through Hot Chicks with Douchebags that I discovered Ram Jam and “Black Betty”.
This is Ram Jam playing “Black Betty,” a video which may be the most cliched 70s-tastic thing I have ever seen. I mean, look at his sweater:
In the spirit of lightening things up here a bit, I figured I’d post something more cheerful. To quote Tom Hanks in That Thing You Do! (which is certainly one of the most underrated movies of all time), I thought I’d give you something happy, something poppy.
Because it’s a perfect day for a ride, ain’t it?
I should really just sell the damned thing. Manhattan just isn’t a place for such a beast, much less the Village. New York’s a walking town. A subway town. Sometimes a bus town, and some other times still a taxi town. It’s a bustling town and a jogging town, a drinking and dancing and staying-out-till-4-am town, and in fact it’s a different kind of town just about every minute for just about every person in it, but it’s not so much a driving town. There are too many cabs, too many long limousines with precious celebrity cargo, too many delivery trucks and big buses, too many Lincoln Town Cars shuttling CEOs to the office and back. The air is too bright and the sounds are too vibrant and the color is too loud to be shuttered away from the world by four windows and a growling engine, but still I keep the dilapidated duster.
I tell myself I keep it because I wouldn’t get much for it. The old lady who used to own it never did know much about anything she put a key into, and the engine’s hoarse in her memory. The duck tape on the torn cloth top; the old, nearly bald tires; the muffler that might as well not exist—selling it might cover a month’s rent or a fancy night on the City, but not much more.
That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
But I know the truth. I don’t keep it because selling it wouldn’t make enough; I keep it for days like this.
The town spreads out below us, looks up to us, admires,
Wishing that it could be where we are for a moment.
We’re on top of the world, blessed in our youth;
We’d better enjoy our positions while we can.
The stars look down on us without our condescension;
They all wonder what happened to God.
They see what we have done and are doing
But never realize that we can change.
The moon shines down on us its scornful eye;
We are uncomfortable though others are less moral.
It is only half there, but where the rest is I cannot say.
Perhaps it is with God, waning philosophic.
The wind moans against wood and our flesh,
The same sweet nothings we whispered earlier.
And when it howls like fury through the darkness,
It almost seems like it knows how we feel.
Moisture like morning dew beads blades of grass;
Tiny, clear jewels of dripping condensation.
The whole world smells primal and visceral,
And it glistens in what little light there is here.
There are sounds all around us, some loud and some not,
From furtive, unknown sources in the darkness.
They seem to be everywhere at once and yet nowhere at all,
And isn’t that exactly how we are sometimes?
There is night all around us, overhead, up above,
Silk and satin and dark to the touch.
It is almost oppressive but somehow refrains;
It shows more restraint than we did, earlier.
And so we stare down at the town with a smirk on our lips,
And look up at the stars and feel less than we are.
We throw an ‘up yours’ in a scream at the moon,
And whisper nothing in reply to the wind.
We let the moisture bead and then drip off our skin,
And the sounds gradually become unnerving.
But we live this night, my lady, on Inspiration Point,
Despite darkness’ trying to steal the only one we’ve got.
Yesterday, Lisa said:
That poem reminds me of countless nights I looked up at the stars with Chad. Times when we wanted so badly some recognition for our efforts, times when we both felt like it was an endless cycle of repetative days. Times I wanted to shout and scream at the moon, because I felt so damn tired. We both were looking for inspiration.
Which, I think, is pretty awesome.
It’s kind of amazing how you can try for one thing but achieve something else entirely.
To wit: I wrote “Inspiration Point” when I was a sophomore in college (which probably shows through in ways, I think), and its inspiration was “Thunder Road,” by Bruce Springsteen. My then roommate was a huge fan of the Boss, and he played “Thunder Road” one night, and, while I liked the song, my more visceral reaction was closer to, “Man, I want to do that.”
And so I tried (ain’t sayin’ I succeeded, mind you, just I tried. Then again: man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?).
Here’s some Bruce, because come on, nobody does it better:
It’s a bit crappy, video-wise, but I love the story (“This is the land of peace, love, justice, and no mercy.”). Also, hey, another Jersey boy doin’ it right (also, we see where I get my predilection for tank tops, though, admittedly, the Boss pulls it off better than I do). Unfortunately, I got no guitar, but sometimes I get my pen goin’.
And again: the poem is from my collection, the proceeds from which benefit the United Way NYC in honor of those we lost on September 11th, 2001, and in the days following. If you took advantage of the free download, now’s a good chance to help make a difference, and let’s not forget, it would make a great Christmas gift for the booklover you love.
I’ve read a lot about all the people who are worried that CERN’s upcoming activation of the Large Hadron Collider on Wednesday is going to either:
a) destroy the world,
b) open up the gate to hell, which will destroy the world, or
c) create a microblackhole, which will suck the Earth through it, which will (you guessed it) destroy the world.
Obviously, all this speculation has a common denominator:
that, according to Brian Cox, a professor at Manchester University, anyone who believes any of it is a ‘twat.’
Which is awesome. I’m so tired of ignorant people who claim that both sides of any argument need to be given some attention. This is why the creation/evolution argument is still a debate; people want to be tolerant of other people’s views/beliefs, whether those beliefs are inherently ignorant or not (they are).
So a conservative, Republican, Evangelical Christian’s unwed, teenage daughter is pregnant and may well give birth before she graduates high school.
Let’s all hear it for abstinence education!
Still not sure about the rumors, though. There’s no certainty she’s actually five months pregnant and five months back from September 1st puts the date of conception at May 1st, anyway, I think? Trig was born at the end of April, so I guess it’s unlikely. How soon after birth does ovulation occur? Isn’t it fairly common for women to get pregnant soon after giving birth because of increased fertility (not to mention the general myth that conception following birth isn’t likely because the woman just gave birth)? I just keep thinking of stories I’ve heard of women who gave birth and then were pregnant again a month later.
So even if not, boy, Bristol sure must’ve been busy out there fornicating just a few weeks after her mother gave birth.
Really, the only thing certain now is that Bristol is pregnant even if she wasn’t before, but really that just distracts from the ultimate point:
Sarah Palin: still not qualified to be vice president. Still a sucky candidate. Still a politician who believes Creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools. Still an Evangelical Christian who doesn’t believe in women’s rights.
After hearing the absolutely weird-o story about Sarah Palin, her daughter Bristol, and Trig, I just had to do some more digging. Yesterday was a grading day for the most part, so I only managed to squeeze a bit in, but I did still manage to. Because it’s the sort of story that sticks, isn’t it? Here’s the second woman in history to run for vice-president, and she brings with her what might be a surreal familial scandal.
For anyone who hasn’t heard, the official story is that Palin, while in Texas to deliver some speech or other, realized at some point during the night/early hours of the morning (back in April), that she had begun to leak amniotic fluid, indicating her water broke. She called her doctor for advice and was told she was mostly okay, and so she did what any late-term mother would do; she went and delivered her speech in the morning, and then got on a plane to fly back to the town of which she had been the mayor to deliver the child, Trig, who was born at 6:30 am.
Which sounds like it was more than 24 hours after her water broke.
This, apparently, is highly unusual for a fifth child; the general trend is that labor time goes down as women have more children. So a first child might take a day and a half (I’m pretty sure I did), while a fifth might take a third that much time (I think my sister’s labor took, like, six or eight hours. I’d have to find out).
There’s something else that bothers me, too; isn’t the official story that she knew her child was going to have Down’s syndrome? I thought she knew that ahead of time. So rather than seek medical attention right away, she delayed for nearly 24 hours. To fly.
Curioser and curioser.
The fact that Trig has Down’s syndrome might play into this as well; it is rather well known that women over forty are at statistically greater risk to both conceive/bring to term a child with Down’s syndrome, but so are exceptionally younger mothers. Say, those who are 16 or so.
Also, there is the question of media and a sudden paucity of pictures. The Alaskan State Government removed from its website nearly all photos of Palin and her family.
However, here’s a video of her chastising Hillary Clinton in March. In this video, according to the official story, she is 6 or 7 months pregnant:
I don’t know; maybe she’s just hiding it well.
Trig was born a month later.
And I’ll admit: I can be like a pitbull with lockjaw, and when I get focused on something, watch out. And yesterday, I was focused. So I employed some good ole’-fashioned Google fu.
My gut reaction was, in fact, what on Earth is she wearing? Is that periwinkle with a chartreuse scarf? Both those colors are words I generally use just because they’re funny; I don’t think I’ve ever expected to use them both literally and in context. But that jacket’s got to be something one wouldn’t wear for form so much as function.
Looking at those pictures, I can’t decide either way. My first thought on seeing either is not that that woman is 7 months pregnant (my first thought is the aforementioned gut reaction), but neither would I disbelieve you if you told me she was. I’d think, wow, hey, hiding it well.
But that jacket? She’s either trying to disguise that she’s pregnant or trying to disguise that she’s not.
Or then again: maybe she just likes the jacket.
After I saw the pictures, I wrote to Todercan. I figured the pictures had to have been taken around April, and that’s him in the picture with her, so I thought hey, dude might know. Few better ways to find out the answer to a question than to ask.
The pictures that I posted on my blog in a this post (April 3rd) had been taken on March 11th, so the governess was in her 7th month of pregnancy. I’ll have to admit that she doesn’t look very pregnant in those pictures (here is a large resolution version of one), but that doesn’t mean that she was lying. Simply because a woman (and a public figure) can and wants to keep her pregnancy secret, for different reasons (and there are tons of them that don’t involve her daughter’s sexual life) doesn’t mean that she is an incapable leader. It is her capabilities as a governor and a politician that should be tested.
Which I’ll return to in just a second.
Because there’s another image I found. It was originally on Alaska’s state website, and though it came up in a Google image search, the actual page would not. Meaning, I got to access the picture, but couldn’t get to the site. V. Fishy. Fishier, in fact, than tuna, as one reader’s mother said.
Here’s the picture:
It’s from the 2008 Iditarod. March 1st, it seems? Again, Palin would be at least in her 6th month of pregnancy. At this point, it’s worth noting that women who have already had children begin to show signs of pregnancy earlier, not later.
The problem is, Palin is damned if she was and damned if she wasn’t. Either her water broke early in the morning but she gave a speech anyway and then flew for 8 hours to deliver said child at a hospital where the care simply couldn’t have compared to that available in other places even despite knowing that her baby already had health problems, or
She lied about the whole thing to cover up her daughter’s pregnancy, because it’s a matter of shame that should be concealed.
But the thing is, either way, I still think it’s moot. I wouldn’t think she’s fit for the position either way. And those smug, arrogant PUMA supporters can call me an Obamatron all they like, but I don’t care; at this point, I can’t see a way to justify electing a guy who firmly believes in the war and a woman who believes so firmly in family values she believes in subjugating women’s rights to get there. Either way, I don’t think anyone who believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible that should be taught alongside evolution in schools is fit to hold any public office, whether mayor of a town of 5,000 or vice-president of a country exponentially larger.
Either way, Sarah Palin is not the woman this country needs. The woman this country can use has already pledged her support to Obama, and PUMA supporters should stop pledging their support to anyone in a skirt and start voting with their heads and hearts, because otherwise they, like Sarah Palin, are just the sort of women who give feminism a bad name.
Apparently, there’s a rumor Trig Palin might, in fact, be the child of Bristol Palin, Sarah’s oldest daughter.
Some of the details certainly make one wonder.
The official version of the story seems to be that Palin’s water broke while she was in Texas, at which time she flew back home to Alaska to give birth to her youngest child. If she did so, I’m relatively certain she would have had to take a private jet; commercial airlines prohibit women more than 8 months pregnant from flying.
But let’s say they made an exception because she’s governess of Alaska.
Still, her oldest daughter, Bristol, had been removed from her school for 4 to 5 months already, with a “prolonged case of mono.”
I’m not convinced it’s true, but then, I’m not convinced it matters, either. I thought she was both batshit crazy and less than qualified for the gig before I heard any of the above rumors, and I still do. I think this whole back-and-forth argument between GOP supporters and McCain Democrats and PUMA supporters on one hand and Obama supporters on the other is silly, because I don’t think experience has very much to do with one’s ability to get a job done. Obama and Palin are, arguably, on equal level concerning experience, but Obama’s qualification vastly outpace Palin’s, and I think that’s what counts. Obama was the Illinois senator, and as such participated in national policy; Palin is governor of a state whose population is less than Brooklyn’s and may have participated in regional policy, there in Alaska, but isn’t Alaska a bit of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind state, anyway? People note it’s the largest, but Manhattan is more populous and impressive, no?
If it is true, however, I wonder if it plays into her anti-women’s rights beliefs. Keeping secret one’s daughter’s teenage pregnancy and then adopting the child as one’s own while actively concealing the entire thing seems somehow related to the “let’s all sweep sexuality under the rug, because the only real way to educate teenagers is to teach them abstinence. We won’t acknowledge sex education, we won’t dispense condoms to populations that might use them, and we will consistently teach that sex and its consequences are utterly shameful” belief system many fetus-rights activists seem to share.
What do you think? Would it make a difference, if true?
Lots of major political happenings the past few days. Obama accepted the nomination on Thursday, right down the street from me, but I deliberately avoided any and all proceedings related to the DNC (I have issues with crowds. And crowd control, which seems an oxymoron).
I watched his speech on Thursday. I wasn’t nearly as moved by his as by Hillary’s, but then again, I think that might be for the better. I’ve heard some people complain that it lacked his usual passion and rhetorical flair, but I have to wonder if that would have been the right place for either. I thought it was a basically nuts-and-bolts speech in which he accepted the nomination and then indicated what he planned to do. One of the biggest complaints against him (besides “arrogance,” but don’t even get me started on that) is that many people felt they didn’t know what he was running for or promising. They didn’t know what his policies were going to be.
I think we have a better idea now. We might not yet know how he plans to accomplish his plans, but at least we know he’s got them, and I think that’s the important part for anyone who was undecided, which is really who that speech was addressed to. I was going to be voting for him anyway, regardless of what he said, because really the other choice is a senile old man, and I think that his speech was for everyone who hadn’t already been swayed by his brilliant rhetoric and bombastic charisma.
And how about that senile old man? McCain’s the other big news with his choice of Sarah Palin, the Tina Fey-lookalike Alaskan governor nobody besides Alaskans had ever heard of before yesterday, to be his vice-presidential candidate.
So, basically, I think McCain believes that all the disenfranchised Hillaristas who are so upset Obama beat their candidate, hands down, are voting based on gender and not ideas or politics, so anyone in a skirt will appease most of them. I can’t think of any other reason. His most oft-repeated criticism of Obama is that Obama lacks experience; meanwhile, Palin’s been governor for less than two years, and of a state whose total population is less than that of Brooklyn. One could argue that she, as a governor, has more executive experience, but if one really wants to make that argument, she technically has more experience than any other candidate, none of whom have political experience outside of the Senate.
I wouldn’t make that argument. I think she’s totally crazy and completely scary. She’s anti-abortion rights. She believes Creationism should be taught alongside evolution in school.
And most of all: do you know that average life expectancy for an American man is 75.6 years? McCain turned 72 yesterday. Which means that, if he’s elected, and if he actually manages to live through his first term, it will actually be unexpected. And this is a man who’s battled malignant melanoma four times between 1993 and 2002.
So on one ticket we have a senile old man who wants to bomb Iran and his conservative, Evangelical Christian running mate who’s been a governor for only slightly less time than McCain is yet expected to live.
On the other, we have a man with solid integrity who seems utterly committed to uniting America in the change he sees as a vision for the future, and his senior Senator running mate.
It really should be no contest, and it’s a damned shame it’s not.
I’m not so worried about that. It’s a legal grey area since it wasn’t for download, it wasn’t a finished product. We aren’t sure who owns the recordings. I feel like I might survive this.
And I’m sure he probably will, but one might wonder precisely how.
Apparently, the songs were only on his website for a little while before two things happened: first, it sounds like the host’s server crashed (which makes sense, because ZOMG NOO GNR!!!111!!!), and second, someone associated with GN’R asked the guy to take the songs down and erase the digital files, which he did (which was why he couldn’t supply the FBI with the original files when they later asked). So, really, no telling how many people managed to catch the audio stream at exactly the right time. In the meantime, after the songs were taken down at GN’R's request, copies managed to make their way around the tubes. It was one of those copies a friend of mine convinced me to listen to.
I had mixed feelings about doing so. I’ve heard a few people call Axl names for suing the guy who posted them, but I just can’t help seeing the situation from Axl’s perspective: here’s a guy whose name is on two of the greatest rock albums of all time (Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion). I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to have to try to make a follow up to Illusion; both CDs are, first minute to last, terrific. I still listen to them all the time. And Appetite? It’s turbo-charged summer on vinyl, barbecues and beers and bonfires, the groin-tightening excitement of making out for the first time, knowing you want to use your body but having not a clue what you want to use it for. So he’s got both those albums under his belt, and now everyone’s been waiting for the follow-up for, what, like, 13 years or something?
Not to mention all the press he’s gotten in the meantime. People who have probably never actually seen him in real life, even on a stage, writing about his “neuroses” and “depression” and “erratic behavior,” and etc. And I’m not saying his behavior hasn’t been erratic at times, but I am saying I can totally understand why he’d want to become total recluse. With pretty much everyone scrutinizing your every move, would you want to leave your house?
I wouldn’t. I’d sit down in the studio and I’d spend a decade trying to write something better than what I had done before, and it would probably take that long, too, because let’s face it; what he’d done before was awesome. So Axl spends more than a decade trying to get it right, trying to get it better, and then some random dude posts the unfinished work on his random website.
Heck, I’d be pissed, too.
But, then, as a fan, man, do I want to hear what he’s working on. Which was why I had mixed feelings about listening to the songs; on one hand, I’m just dying to. On the other, I know that if they’re not out yet, there’s a reason they’re not out yet, and Axl probably doesn’t think they’re finished yet. And I’ll admit I ain’t musical enough to detect an extra note here or a more produced layer there, most of the time, but then again, I’m not cinematic enough to really know anything about lighting or whathaveyou, and I wouldn’t presume to try to view, say, Quantum of Solace before I sit down to watch it in a theater.
In the end, the GN’R fan in me won out, and yes, I listened to those 9 songs. I thought it’d be neat to do a review of them, but then I thought: as a writer, would I want someone to review an unpublished novel I didn’t feel I had finished revising yet?
Of course I wouldn’t.
Hell, I’m not even sure I should tell you that I thought they were awesome. The kind of awesome, in fact, that’s worth waiting nearly a decade and a half for.
So I won’t. I’m not going to tell you that I think it’s the best thing the man behind Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion (I & II) has ever done.
Not right now.
Maybe when it comes out.
In the meantime, I think we should all wish Mr. Rose luck in finishing what he’s started.
I just watched the nation’s first female presidential candidate endorse the nation’s first black presidential candidate.
And yes, I cried as I did so.
I’m an Eagle Scout. On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country.
And man, at this moment, am I ever proud of my country.
Rock on, Hillary Rodham Clinton. What a brilliantly, beautifully dignified legacy you have. What a brilliant, beautiful speech you made on this, the anniversary of our country’s finally recognizing women’s right to vote.
You have not done your gender proud.
You have done our country proud. You have made me proud to be an American.
For that, I thank you. For that, I will be forever grateful.
I came late to Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, but as they say, better than never, anyway, because holy shit is it a good book.
I’m not sure why I never picked it up before; I’m familiar enough with Hill’s family that I probably should have based on that alone. You see, Hill’s real name is Joseph Hillstrom King. He is the son of Stephen (yes, that Stephen King) and the brother of Owen, which means that his father’s Needful Things is the reason I’m a writer, and I’ve shaken his brother’s hand and heard him read. On the other hand, that was probably Joe’s intention; he dropped his surname in favor of an abbreviated version of his middle name to distance himself from his family’s legacy. To which I really only say two things: why?, and mission accomplished.
Actually, that’s a bit disingenuous; I sort of get why he might (though I don’t know how I should refer to him? King? Hill? I’m going to go with Just Joe, if only because I don’t think he’d mind. Also: because this is one of those rare novels that makes you want to have a drink with its author, and for that reason alone it is fine). His brother Owen’s novella/collection, We’re All in this Together, was terrific on its own but markedly different from anything his father might have written; Heart-Shaped Box, on the other hand, is not so much, though that doesn’t mean it isn’t as good. In fact, it’s awesome.
Heart-Shaped Box‘s premise is simple; an aging rockstar named Judas Coyne buys a haunted suit off of an eBay-knockoff site, and chill-inducing story ensues. To tell you many details would be to give too much away; suffice to say, what makes H-SB so truly excellent is that it’s not just a ghost story; it’s a story about haunting, and all the different things that can haunt a person, in as many ways as a person can be haunted. Judas is a haunted man, but he’s haunted long before the ghost shows up; by his former career, by his family, by his past, by his former lovers . . .
The novel is partly confronting the ghost (as any good ghost story ought and need be), but also about confronting the past, and confronting yourself, and that’s why it ends up becoming more than the sum of its words. As I said, I get why Just Joe published away from the King legacy; there are marks of King all over this book, from its pop culture references to its repetition of certain phrases to its ghost itself. When the ghost tells Jude it wants to “ride the nightroad,” well, if that doesn’t conjure early-era Stephen King, you must not have read him back then. Nowadays it’s all “smucking” and lame-o Lisey or whathaveyou, but Stephen King used to be able to write the bejesus out of most stories, and Just Joe has certainly inherited that trait.
The book is not perfect, mind you; the ending, I thought, was particularly flawed, but then again, that’s another mark of Stephen, who can tell stories better than anyone else until he gets to the end. But besides that, there are so many subtle touches, so many graceful notes . . . it really does work. And though it wasn’t a book I couldn’t put down, it was a book whose characters I cared about when I did, and that, I think, is even more important. Just Joe’s descriptions of his characters can border on too spare, but that ends up working because I ended up conjuring them in my head; I’m not sure there ever was a full-on, dead-to-rights description of Judas Coyne, but still I feel like I know the guy. Hell, more than that, I feel like I’ve listened to his music, and that, that, right there, is a sort of sleight of hand most writers simply cannot pull off.
Also, that I can say you totally need to read the Acknowledgements section is another coup. I mean, how often do you say that? “Dude, the book was awesome. And the acknowledgements page? Totally rocked.”
Yes, well done sir. Well done indeed.
I know I’m supposed to rate the book, because I always see book reviews doing so, so, on a scale of Black Rain to Paranoid, I’m giving it a “Crazy Train.”
First Bernie Mac, then Isaac Hayes, and now, sadly, Leroi Moore. Tragic all, but man . . . I love Dave Matthews Band. I didn’t until Everyday, after which I became the sort of fan who paid $80 no less than 3 times to see them perform (and loved them every time).
The Bulwer-Lytton prize, named after the author who first set down “It was a dark and stormy night,” is a parody award given to bad writing.
This year’s “winners” have been announced.
Thing is, I’d totally read a novel that began:
Mike Hummer had been a private detective so long he could remember Preparation A, his hair reminded everyone of a rat who’d bitten into an electrical cord, but he could still run faster than greased owl snot when he was on a bad guy’s trail, and they said his friskings were a lot like getting a vasectomy at Sears.
Because, seriously, a Sears vasectomy is the sort of imagery that would keep me going at least 50 more pages.
In fact, I kinda think the only bad thing about that entry is the comma splice after “Preparation A.”
My whole thing is that that I saw ‘The Dark Knight’. I feel like I’m dumb because I feel like I don’t get how many things that are so smart. It’s like a Ferrari engine of storytelling and script writing and I’m like, ‘That’s not my idea of what I want to see in a movie.’ I loved ‘The Prestige’ but didn’t understand ‘The Dark Knight’. Didn’t get it, still can’t tell you what happened in the movie, what happened to the character and in the end they need him to be a bad guy. I’m like, ‘I get it. This is so high brow and so f–king smart, I clearly need a college education to understand this movie.’ You know what? F-ck DC comics. That’s all I have to say and that’s where I’m really coming from.
Now first, it’s worth noting it sounds incredibly tongue-in-cheek.
But as I noted in IO9′s comments, I don’t think that makes it necessarily less true.
I noted just after seeing the movie that I hadn’t terrifically enjoyed it. I don’t think I actively disliked it, mind you, because I thought it had a lot of strengths and I thought I could see what it was going for, which I admired. Much of it had a very noir feel. Anyone who’s read my collection (as always, free here) probably picked up that I enjoy noir, as two of the stories are noir. I think the best thing Billy Faulkner ever wrote was The Big Sleep and that was because Chandler did it first, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is among my favorite movies.
The thing about The Dark Knight as noir was that Nolan nailed the atmosphere but not really the conflict, which caused the writing to suffer. I can quote The Big Sleep off the top of my head–
“I don’t like your manners.”
“And I’m not crazy about yours. I didn’t ask to see you. I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners, I don’t like them myself. They are pretty bad. I grieve over them on long winter evenings. I don’t mind your ritzing me drinking your lunch out of a bottle. But don’t waste your time trying to cross-examine me.”
But not so much The Dark Knight.
I think it was a little too dark, especially when Batman Begins had some nice, humorous touches (Morgan Freeman ftw [and: get well soon!]).
But I think my biggest problem was with the Joker. I’ve seen people cite the Joker, as a character, as the thematic counterpoint of Batman/Bruce Wayne, but he’s in fact not if solely because he has neither motivation nor backstory. The reason Bruce Wayne/Batman works is that we know how and why Bruce Wayne took up his cowl. We know his personal inciting incident (the death of his parents), and why he does what he does. We in addition know that he constantly wrestles with his own anger: witness the moment in Batman Begins when Wayne sneaks a revolver into the courtroom but then decides not to use it.
We know nothing of the sort about the Joker. Not where he came from, not why he does what he does. We don’t know why he paints his face. And most importantly, we don’t get any sense that he wrestles with his demons like Wayne does, or even that he has them. If we knew that he wrestled with them at some point and gave himself over to them in precisely the way Wayne refuses to, it might be effective. But we don’t.
“Agent of chaos” is one-dimensional characterization and lazy motivation at best and insulting at worst. At first I tried to view the Joker as a trickster-esque character, but he’s not that, either, because the trickster is amoral, beyond morals, lives by a slightly different moral compass than the rest of us but still has that moral compass. It’s why Jack Sparrow works so well. Total embodiment of the trickster archetype. And true, we don’t know his backstory, either, but we know his motivation, or, if we don’t, at least realize he has some.
Because of that lack of motivation, because it’s never clear what the Joker wants (he seems to start out wanting to kill the Batman, but it later turns out he feels the Batman “completes” him and seems to want to challenge Batman, which he never really does), the movie suffers. Especially in the final half-hour or so when every major character has an existential speech about the nature of good and evil and herodom so that they can telegraph to the audience everything the movie itself could not. The final half-hour of The Dark Knight may well be the most egregious example of telling over showing, lazy filmmaking, expository speech, and handing all your major characters philosophy theses as dialogue because you don’t trust what you’ve just made to stand on its own I have ever seen.
Oh, and after having seen Ledger’s performance, I still think Nolan missed a huge opportunity in not casting Christian Bale in triple roles as Bruce Wayne, Batman, and the Joker.
I’ve mentioned before I’m currently in the submission process with my novel, The Prodigal Hour. So far it’s okay; not spectacular, but not terrible, either. Of course, “spectacular” would probably be defined as “offered representation,” and I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens. I considered talking more about the submission process itself, but I think I’m going to do so more after I’ve been offered representation, and not before.
I’m going through the process as you’d expect; search the Internet and Writers’ Market and etc. for agents who are either actively seeking new clients or sound like they may be vaguely interested. And then I send a query, which looks pretty much as you’d expect a query to look: intro, synopsis, bio, and out. The intro gives me some trouble, though, because that’s where I mention the title, word count, and genre of my novel, and boyhow is that last characteristic ever a trouble spot. Many might think it’s easy: time travel automatically = science fiction.
But not so fast, I say.
Because I don’t feel like I wrote a science fiction novel. I don’t generally read science fiction novels. Science fiction is all wars among and treks across the stars, and it has a long and illustrious history I don’t feel a part of. Growing up, my choices for reading material were all Dean Koontz and Stephen King pretty much straight across the board, with digressions into Douglas Adams and Christopher Stasheff. Given that among my first experiences with Stephen King was a short story called “Strawberry Spring,” after which I read Different Seasons, I always had trouble thinking of him as a ‘horror’ writer. I never read It and never got to his straight-up horror until after I’d already read “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body.”
Try showing someone with no previous knowledge of their origins the movie adaptations of The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me and then explaining to them they were both based on books by a horror writer.
Because they certainly aren’t horror stories.
Admittedly, King is a bit of an exception; he himself is pretty much as much a genre as “horror”. People buy his books for his name, not for the genre.
Few people are going to buy The Prodigal Hour for my name, and you’re probably already reading this, anyway.
So far, I’ve been calling it a techno-thriller, but even that is a bit of a misnomer. It is thrilling (well. That’s the hope, at least), but character and plot work in pretty much equal measure, and it’s certainly not just about the thrills.
I sort of understand the requirement; it determines, basically, where your book is placed on bookstores’ shelves, which is key. I rarely venture to the scifi/fantasy shelves except to grab Neil Gaiman’s newest book, and again, I’m buying the name, not the genre.
One of the things that’s gotten me thinking about this, too, are the writers who write stories that seem pretty categorically genre but whose books are not placed there. Lethem started out writing mostly weird science fiction tales. Crichton’s got Jurassic Park and Timeline, at least, not to mention Sphere and The Andromeda Strain. Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was narrated by a dead girl, while Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time-Traveler’s Wife seems like science fantasy.
And then there’s Michael Chabon. He just won a Hugo for The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. The Hugo is a major award so known for science fiction that, when a handful of fantasy novels won (including JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Gaiman’s American Gods), some controversy got stirred up.
It’s like people expect good entertainment from all media until they hit books, and then some weirdo mechanism steps in and says that it must be “literature” to be any good while preventing the memory that the whole reason Shakespeare is awesome is because he wrote swordfights and fairies and witches so damned well into really exciting stories.
I’ve been reading more stories, lately, about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, which is the European Organization for Nuclear Research (its acronym refers to the French Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire, which was its original provisional body before it became an organization in 1954). CERN is on the Franco-Swiss border in Geneva, and its reason for being is fundamental physics.
I’ve always been fascinated by physics, though in specific ways; I always sucked at math, and indeed nearly flunked physics in college, but I’ve always loved the study of black holes and relativity (at least, so nearly as I can understand them). When I was in high school, I read Leon Lederman’s The God Particle; I got through the first few chapters but then gave up when it started with its equations (which has always been where my brain shuts off. Numbers, fine, but I can’t handle letters if they’re not in writing and books).
The LHC is the latest in a series of 8 particle accelerators, which use electric fields to propel charged particles at high speeds. Basically, I think of it like if two bullets struck each other to explode and you studied the fragments, which is probably overly simplistic, but I’m no physicist. But the general idea, I think, is that, like, two protons or quarks or whathaveyou will collide to explode, thereby freeing the particles that make them up, and scientists are most excited about one theoretical particle in particular: the Higgs boson. It is, so far, theoretical, but it’s the only particle predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics that hasn’t been observed; scientists hypothesize that it may be the particle behind the property of mass.
They are excited because, as it is the largest, most advanced, and most powerful accelerator ever, they believe that the LHC experiments might produce one.
Some, however, have speculated it’s not all the LHC might produce.
As with everything that very few people fully understand, one of the things I’ve been reading about the LHC is the catastrophic results that may or may not occur. Everything from some wild speculation that it might cause a microscopic blackhole that could, in turn, suck the planet through it to the wilder speculation that one of its explosions might release enough energy to cause a small tear in the fabric of spacetime that would actually be a doorway into Hell and allow Satan and his legions of demons through to initiate the endtimes. In his novel FlashForward, Robert Sawyer wrote a story in which, for 8 minutes, all of human consciousness flashed forward a certain amount of years (I’d link to it, but I ultimately thought it was pretty bad). Richard Cox explored the idea of the Higgs in his novel The God Particle, which is more of a technothriller (and, to my tastes, better [though not quite as good as Cox's other book, Rift]).
But the coolest, most awesome speculation I’ve heard?
I’ll give you a second to read that sentence again.
Z. O. M. G.
It’s one of the most exciting ideas I’ve ever heard in my life.
Of course, admittedly, the chances of its occurring are probably slim to none, and Slim just left. But even still, just the fact that a couple of major scientists (one from the University of Copenhagen, the other from Kyoto University, so it ain’t like they’re academic slouches, or anything) think it’s possible just blows my frickin’ mind.
I’ll admit I’m also excited for a rather selfish reason. You see, both the Higgs boson and CERN figure into The Prodigal Hour as major plot points. And yes, I tell you that to tease.
I thought that since I had already written about Doctor Who and Supernatural, I really should devote some screentime to my favorite show, House, M.D..
Especially since I’m so worried about it.
I don’t quite remember when I became a fan of House, but I certainly remember how: my best friend in my writing program at some point, told me I needed to watch it and lent me the first season on DVD. I don’t remember why, nor how it came up, but man, it hooked me right away.
Some background: I was, during college, premed. I got right up to the MCATs before I realized I’m not a doctor, and by then it was late enough that I ended up graduating with a secondary major in science. My primary major was literature, and I did my thesis on the connection between medicine and writing as embodied in the work of Arthur Conan Doyle and William Carlos Williams. Looking back, I think what ultimately made me give it up was realizing that I really couldn’t handle that responsibility. It’s not the blood or the guts or anything; it’s the fear of making a mistake the cost of which would be a life.
I was skeptical when my friend lent me that DVD, but then I started watching the show, and I found I very quickly couldn’t stop. I’d say I’m not sure there’s a better show on television because I’d have a very limited sample set (I haven’t really owned a television in several years), but I know I just kept going, straight on through. I watched the entire first season in a weekend, and then watched most of the second over my first USC winter break, my first Christmas and New Year’s on my own and in LA.
And I loved it.
For anyone not watching; House is less a show about medicine than it is about diagnostics, problem solving, and detective work, and House himself has less in common with, say, Doug Ross (or choose a favorite doctor character) than he has with Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. One can pretty much pick up the series with any episode; most are completely self-contained, and all focus primarily on a single case. With nearly perfect three-act structure in every episode. Plus, House is acerbic, sarcastic, and brilliantly curmudgeonly.
But after last season, I’ve been wondering if he hasn’t limped over the shark.
The first three were mostly terrific, and the third ended on a bit of a cliff-hanger in which he lost his entire team (Omar Epps, Jesse Spencer, and uber-hot Jennifer Morrison). It was set up well enough to be a dramatic development, and season three began first with House on his own, until his boss forces him to hire a new team. In typical House fashion, he basically has a marathon interview with, like, forty applicants. The third season pretty much became survivor in a hospital with House as Jeff Probst, with several odd-ish complications along the way.
I started to notice it most when House used a hunting knife and a wall socket to electrocute himself. I’m not sure how he did it, though; my father is an electrician, and so far as I know (do not try on your own), one needs at least two such implements, one in each slot of a socket, to complete the circuit and get a shock. How he managed to kill himself with just the knife is anyone’s guess (though, I guess, being House, he probably accounted for it), but moreso it took the character to a weird extreme. House is a Vicodin addict, certainly often a prick, and by most accounts self-destructive in some ways, but destructive enough to set aside survival instinct to see if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel? It felt very much against character.
I can really only hope that the issues that occurred midway through the season did so for the same reasons that I speculate occurred with Supernatural; that writers’ strike messed up productions several ways to Sunday, and about the only show I’d guess it didn’t affect would have been The Bachelorette and its “reality”-based ilk.
The season ended with the death of a character too prevalent and well developed, over the season, to really be called minor but not really exactly major, either. It seemed to come a bit out of left field, but it did complicate various relationships in the show in a lot of ways.
With a few weeks left before the new season starts, I hope they’ve gotten their act together and pull it off well. I’m interested to see where it goes. The friction between House and Wilson (played by Robert Sean Leonard– Swing Heil!) could be insanely tense, and Laurie and Leonard are two actors I’d love to see holding nothing back while going for each other’s throats. They have as dramatic and amazing a chemistry as Laurie ever had with Fry (and if you haven’t seen A Bit of Fry and Laurie, you must).
I’m also wondering if they’ll ever demonstrate just what Taub actually brings to anything, because so far, I’m not totally clear on his use in the show, and why he’s there.
I’m also hoping to see more of Jennifer Morrison. But that’s kind of an obvious request, probably.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Christopher Hitchens, but it’s mostly a divergence of thought and (perceived) personality. I’ve heard myriad stories that he’s not the most gracious of individuals, but then again, they’re just stories, and I’ve only heard them. I’d be interested to meet him. I think I’d have a lot to talk about that because of that divergence of thought; while I agree that there are few worse developments in all of history than organized religion, I just can’t make the leap of faith to atheism.
But that’s beside the point. Because one of the things I like about Hitchens is that he seems to truly believe in and stand behind what he says and writes and thinks. He seems a deeply principled man, certainly more deeply than many of the so-called quote-unquote Christians I’ve encountered.
(I’ve often said that anyone who says they’re not sure whether waterboarding is torture [or, worse, denies it is] should be themselves waterboarded. You know. Since they’re not sure and so they can figure it out. Only fair, I’ve always thought)
Well worth reading. Both powerful and extraordinarily well written.
The day: Southern California just south of Santa Monica, warm and oppressive as Los Angeles so often is. I’m in my old beater of a Mazda (which has served me oh-so-well through the years) playing the rock station I think Butch Walker introduced me to, if I’m not mistaken, when I hear a song by Katy Perry. It’s obviously pretty purely pop confection, with the kind of heavy, thuddy beat that masks the fact that there’s really nothing going on and then kind of vocal enhancement that tries to conceal that the vocalist can’t actually sing.
But don’t take my word for it:
My first thought on hearing it was: “Jill Sobule called. She wants her song back.”
Which is, I think, actually charitable. Because really, it doesn’t really rip Sobule off so much as insult homosexuality and the GLBT community in general.
Here’s Jill Sobule’s “I Kissed a Girl”:
You know what I love about Jill Sobule? She looks so happy and joyful. She’s having so much fun playing her guitar she nearly falls backward in her bed, and there’s her feet not reaching the floor. I love her facial expressions, and the way she sings, like kissing a girl was, for her, a revelation. An epiphany.
“They can have their diamonds while we have our pearls.”
It’s a rather defiant statement but one without anger or resentment behind it. It’s like she gets the fact that the most powerful and influential revolutionary, and the one who will most change the world, is the one who’s smiling.
And then there’s Katy Perry.
So the video opens with her on the bed, stroking her pussy (cat). Already, it goes, arguably, a little more toward crude and tasteless than Sobule’s. And okay, I get that we can’t really exactly compare the two videos, because videos are less about the artist and the song than they are about the record companies and the marketing.
So fair play. How about that song?
The first time I heard it was driving down that sunny California street (I was actually on Romaine, a block south of Santa Monica). Quiet residential streets flooded with hard sunshine. Which I tell you because I had no visual to go with it. All I had was the song and the lyrics. Which start off mostly okay; I didn’t take issue with her lack of planning or intentions. So it was sorta spontaneous. Took her by surprise. All right. It’s not what she’s used to, she just wants to “try you on.”
Not quite the best metaphor, I don’t think. Doesn’t “try you on” objectify the recipient? You don’t “try” a person “on”; people are not blouses that are not going to fit correctly and which you have to bring to your tailor to take in the sides. People are not high heels that look great but are totally uncomfortable.
Peoples, as I learned from The Muppets Take Manhattan, is peoples.
“I kissed a girl and I liked it/the taste of cherry chapstick.” And hey, sure, I identify with that. I’ve kissed girls and it’s generally something I like, as well. Some have tasted of cherry chapstick. Or vanilla. I like kisses sans flavor, personally, but that’s a personal proclivity we’ll not discuss farther because it has little to do with the topic at hand.
“I kissed a girl just to try it.” I’ve kissed a couple girls “just to try it.” I prefer to be romantically interested in the girl, because I kinda think just kissing someone you’re not actually interested in dating is leading them on, but then again I’ve gone on first dates I wasn’t entirely certain were going to lead to second dates but still ended with a kiss. Only a couple, mind, but still.
“I hope my boyfriend don’t [sic] mind it.”
Oh, now hold the phone. You’re romantically involved with someone enough to call him your boyfriend but still kissed someone else? Infidelity much? Sorry, here’s where I take real issues. Not saying, of course, that one can’t be in a romantic relationship and kiss someone else; lots of people have open relationships, but the “rules,” so to speak, of such relationships are generally clearly delineated ahead of time, no? I mean, it’s not something that you just go to a bar and start making out with random people, unless you’ve clearly established that’s okay beforehand. Otherwise, it’s really kinda cheating, ain’t it? And sure, I know lots of guys wouldn’t mind it if their girlfriends started making out with other girls, but the reason there, of course, is the visions of threesomes dancing like sugarplums in their heads.
Well, mostly, anyway. Probably. My point is, she kissed a girl without first discussing it with her boyfriend.
And then the next stanza:
“No I don’t even know your name
It doesn’t matter
You’re my experimental game
Just human nature.”
So on one hand: I agree about homosexuality. I don’t believe it’s a lifestyle choice, and I think anyone who does is bisexual (it seems to me that anyone who thinks gay people made a choice about which gender to be attracted to probably, at some point, made that choice themselves. Stands to reason, I think), which means that yes, I agree it’s human nature.
What I don’t agree with is “experimental.” I think there’s a Bill Maher or Chris Rock joke that goes something along the lines of “experiment my ass. Unless you’re wearing a lab coat and goggles, it’s not an experiment. An experiment? Really? So what was your hypothesis, Heisenberg?” To me, again, it goes back to objectification and just trying a person on.
I mean, again, it doesn’t have to be so, but only with the consent of both parties. And given that Katy Perry doesn’t even know the name of the girl she kissed, how can she know she has her consent to do so? The song states there’s alcohol involved; what if this poor girl Katy Perry kissed and whose name she never knew starts to struggle with depression and anxiety due to the questions about her sexuality kissing Perry raises?
“It’s not what good girls do
Not how they should behave.”
Oh, really? Kissing other girls is not what “good girls” do? So all lesbians are, by opposition, bad girls? Good girls shouldn’t be lesbians?
Which, in addition, led me to her other music video for “Ur so Gay”:
1) she’s not talking about gay; she’s talking about emo.
2) she opens by wishing someone would accidentally kill themselves by suffocating on their H&M scarf while masturbating (to Mozart? zuh?).
3) Zooey Deschanel called. She wants her look back, because, like with Jill Sobule, you stole it and don’t even do it right.
4) It sounds like she’s just bitter because emo dude with whom she fell in love and who later dumped her is prettier than she is, thinner than she is, wears make-up better than she does, and dresses better than she does.
And the only reason I link to that video is so you know I’m not making any of that up.
(well. Except for the prettier thing and all that, because obviously it’s just dolls in the video, so I’m just assuming that based on her looks/style)
And look, the funny thing is that I must confess I’m kinda completely a dude when it comes to lesbians (ZOMGLEZBIENSWOOTFTWBBQ!!!!111!). Like Charlie Sheen in Being John Malkovich: “Hot lesbian witches? That’s fucking genius!” And even though Perry never actually kisses a girl in her video, there’s a sequence where lingerie models have a pillowfight, and we all know what happens when lingerie models pillowfight.
What, no? But I thought—
Man, next thing you’re going to tell me is there’s no Easter bunny!
No, but in all seriousness, one of the major objections raised to Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy was that it implied that all lesbians really needed was a good, hard dickin’ to “cure them of their ways,” so to speak, and I think Perry perpetuates this somehow. Because the way I read the song, she’s doing it for attention and basically because she’s bored, as an experiment. And (and I can’t stress this enough) she already has a boyfriend.
So really, homosexuality is just confusion and experimentation and boredom, because it’s not what good people do, not the way good people behave. (/sarcasm)
I mean, can you imagine if a guy sang a song like this? Can you imagine if Justin Timberlake came out with a song called “Tickle Kiss” about making out with a guy who hadn’t shaved for a week? Nevermind that it’s all the news channels would talk about for a month while whatever evangelical preacher who cared lamented that it was a sign of the moral degradation of society and a signal that the end is NIGH!
But is it okay because it’s a chic–I’m sorry–girl? Am I making too much of girls making out, or do you take some umbrage, too? Why is what’s good for the goose not good for the gander?
Because it debuted before The Dark Knight, which, this past weekend, became the single most successful movie to open ever, the trailer for Zach Snyder’s Watchmen garnered a lot of attention. Lots of (well deserved) drooling, lots of controversy. My particular favorite note came from Galleycat, which said:
“Remember earlier this week, when a well-placed movie trailer turned Watchmen into a hit 22 years after the first installment of the graphic novel appeared in comic book shops?”
As if it were a trailer for the book and not for the upcoming moviezation. Also, I’m pretty well certain Watchmen has been a “hit,” off and on, for the better part of two decades. I’d bet that, if comic books sales systems pulled a Soundscan to remove the bestsellers overall from the charts (because stuff like Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon still sells so many copies, so many years later, it would affect the sales reporting), Watchmen would rank up there along with The Dark Knight Returns and Sandman; books that still sell well so long after their original publication.
And so now this is where I admit something: I couldn’t get through Watchmen.
I tried. I picked up the book at some point either during college or shortly thereafter. I’m pretty sure I bought it at Midtown Comics in Manhattan, which I still consider the single coolest comics shop I’ve ever been to. Back then, I was a regular commuter between midtown Manhattan and southern New Jersey, and I often picked up comics or entertainment magazines at Midtown to read on the Greyhound back home. So I’m pretty certain I intended to read Watchmen on the bus, and I know I started it, but I also know I got about 30 pages in before I gave up on it. Even still, that paperback is somewhere in my parents’ basement.
I’ve picked it up again to skim a few times, hoping each time that I would appreciate it, get into it, like I hadn’t before. I hated Shakespeare until my sophomore year of college, when a professor-prompted epiphany finally demonstrated to me how awesome King Lear was. I read both The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye in high school but appreciated neither until I read them on my own while in college; I reread Gatsby a year or so ago, and discovered it was even better.
I keep hoping I will experience something similar with Alan Moore.
Because it’s not just Watchmen; I’ve read enough people I admire praise him that I’ve tried lots of stuff by him. Promethea. The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. Lost Girls sounded vaguely interesting, because I always like modern fiction that remixes and revamps old stories to change the way we look at them, but I never did pick it up. But I’ve discovered the cool reaction I had to Watchmen is roughly the reaction I have to anything Alan Moore writes. And I really do want to “get” him, I think; I know he did seminal work on Swamp Thing, and I know he wrote a bunch of Superman stories a lot of people I admire think are awesome, and hell, the man gave Neil Gaiman what may be the most awesome nickname ever (“Scary Trousers”), which comes with one of the single coolest nickname stories in history:
But I don’t. I never have, and I am unsure I ever will.
I keep hoping it will come with age. That as my taste becomes more sophisticated, I will begin to appreciate the writing, the nuance, the genius of Mr. Moore.
Because that’s his big thing isn’t it? That he’s such a genius? That he’s so smart, and he crams his writing so densely with references to literature and popular culture, that his work is above the understanding of most mere mortals? From The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to From Hell and such, everything I’ve seen of his is dense and verbose and meticulous, but more in the way that I want to say, “Yes, Mr. Moore, I understand you’re intelligent. Now if you’ll just stop attempting to demonstrate/prove it, can we please get on with the story?”
It’s because, of course, he wants to “keep out the scum.” No, really, that’s what he says. In this interview with Forbidden Planet, when asked about his to-come novel Jerusalem, the interviewer asks if it will have “one of these intractable, impenetrable first chapters like with Voice of the Fire,” to which Moore replies:
“Now, I did deliberately put the Hob’s Hog chapter in Voice of the Fire. I have been asked since why I did that. The only thing I could think of was, to keep out scum.”
Well, hey, mission accomplished, Mr. Moore. This particular scum? Totally kept out.
The thing about the Watchmen movie, though, is that I totally loved V for Vendetta, so maybe, I figure, this new one will be all right. I know a lot of people hated V for the changes it made to the story in the original comic, but I had the distinct advantage of never having read the comic before I saw the movie, which, on its own, I think, is just spectacular. Having only read a few dozen pages of Watchmen before putting it aside for something I might enjoy more, I can’t help wondering if I’ll have a similar experience with Watchmen; I’m one of the people interested in the movie but with no real investment in it either way. I like a couple of the actors (Crudup ftw! And seriously, the dad from Supernatural? Hell ya!), and the visuals, from what I saw on the giant IMAX screen with the holy-shit sound, were certainly impressive.
To sum up, while she was not a big fan of either the book or the movie, Chartroose seems to appreciate the book for what it is: a non-comedic satire. She mentions the outcry that occurred when the book was first published, then her own reaction to it:
I read until the wee hours of the morning and finished it the next evening. I decided the novel was total trash and stuck in my bookcase, thinking I would probably end up throwing it away later on. Disposal of the novel never happened though, in fact, over the next several days I found myself pulling it off the shelf and rereading entire passages just to make sure that I was recalling them correctly. I had American Psycho on the brain, and it was not an enjoyable experience. Even though it was creeping me out, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. It was the most disturbing book I had ever read.
I can’t say that I loved American Psycho; like Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, it’s not an experience you can really love–it’s bleak and disturbing and kind of even hurts as you read it, so it’s not really something to love.
Yes, I think so.
I never heard the media outcry over the novel; I was a sophomore in college in 1997 by the time a buddy of mine read it and recommended it to me. And perhaps that’s very crucial; sophomore is Latin for “fool,” or thereabouts, if I’m not mistaken, and where I was in life at that time might have been instrumental in my reading of Ellis’ novel. To wit: back then, I was struggling with my identity. I’d just left my bucolic South Jersey hometown for Jersey City to attend a small Jesuit college that was, ultimately, a seminal experience in my life even though it wasn’t exactly the prototypical college experience. When most of my friends at other institutions were getting their bang on every bit as much as they were getting their book on, I had buried my head in credits and writing (back then I had just completed the first draft of my first novel, which clocked in at nearly half a million words, not one of which was actually really worth anything). I was struggling with identity to the point that I was even questioning my own name; my given name is William, and every man I know with the same name had become “Bill” by high school, and so I did, too. Until well into college, when I just wasn’t sure what I wanted people to call me anymore.
And finally, I was a nearly twenty-year-old dude, which meant I felt like society had certain expectations of me that I was meant to fulfill. Except I had absolutely no idea how to actually be a guy, and so I sought advice from the only resource readily available: Men’s Health. Not to mention Esquire and GQ. Every man depicted in the pages of those magazines seemed to be the ur-man, not just the uber-man but in fact the sort of prototype on whom the entire idea of masculinity is based. Washboard abs, Colgate teeth, well groomed hair, chiseled biceps, perfect jeans, tailored suit . . . you get the idea.
The perfect ideal of masculinity.
That was the mindset I had when I came to Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, and for that reason, it was the perfect book at the perfect time in my life. Not only did I feel like I got it, and what he was trying to do, but I felt too as though he had captured precisely the perfectly incredible absurdity of pretty much everything I was experiencing at the time. One device Ellis makes frequent use of in the novel is the extraordinary attention to detail the protagonist, Patrick Bateman, pays to the wardrobe and effects of those around him; anyone who’s ever read Esquire has encountered precisely the same thing. The ten best face washes. The thirteen best new colognes of the season. The four most realistic-looking fake tans.
And no woman can tell me such is relegated to the pages of men’s magazines. Cosmo does it constantly–this season’s hottest shades of lipstick! Next season’s hippest designer!
When I read American Psycho, I read it as a pretty much brilliant critique of precisely that aspect of our culture. Chartroose mentions:
American Psycho is trying to tell us that capitalism is as violent and merciless as Patrick Bateman, and Bateman’s disregard for women as anything but body parts to be abused and discarded is a mirror reflection of modern society’s objectification of women.
But I think it’s more than that; it’s not modern society’s objectification of women but rather our culture’s collective objectification of ourselves. Bateman doesn’t merely objectify women; he objectifies everyone, which is why every new character is described not in terms of a quality or a smile or a trait but rather in terms of the suit he wears or, famously, the business card he carries or, even more famously, the music he likes. When Bateman enjoys something, like Phil Collins’ “Su-su-sudio,” he does so not because he actually likes the music but rather because it is something everyone else seems to enjoy. He uses a Sony Walkman and wears headphones quite often, and when he listens to Whitney Houston, it’s not because he wants to dance with somebody but rather because he wants people to think he wants to. If Bateman objectifies everyone, it is because he feels himself an object; his lack of empathy comes not from his detachment from other people’s feelings but rather from the fact that he has none of his own. His clothes, his beauty regimen, his workouts; he’s not improving himself so much as improving the way the world sees him, and trying all the time to be a more beautiful object to those who view him.
I think it’s a rather brilliant critique, obviously, and I think it ultimately springs from the same sorts of disillusionment as inspired Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club:
Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.
Patrick Bateman is the reason Fight Club exists; he is a rockstar, basically, and he doesn’t chase cars and clothes because he already owns them. He has achieved everything society has told him he should want but still feels he has no purpose or place. He kills people, but mostly he understands that “On a long-enough timeline, the survival rate drops to zero” for everyone.
“Shut up! Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?”
“No, no, I… don’t…”
“Listen to me! You have to consider the possibility that God does not like you. He never wanted you. In all probability, he hates you. This is not the worst thing that can happen.”
Patrick Bateman has achieved, as both a man and a person, pretty much everything society expects of him, or is on his way to. Society has convinced him that, if he does so, he will be happy, but that happiness . . .
Where is it?
Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.
Willy Wonka promised that the man who got everything he ever wanted lived happily ever after, but Jagger got it arguably more right; happiness isn’t getting what you want but rather in getting what you need and understanding why you needed it in the first place.