Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Baudolino, and packing

I finished Baudolino, finally, after going on hiatus from that drama. Which is good. The last 150 pages were excellent (or at whatever point Baudolino and his strange gang reach the Deacon to Presbyter Johannes/Prestor John's kingdom). It was just too much to read all at once.

Packing blows. To put it succinctly.

When one doesn't have anything resembling an idea of how much trunk and back seat space they have to cram all their books, dvds, dishery, clothing, and so on, ONE IS POSITIVELY SCREWED. To put it less succinctly.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sunshine, and not getting struck by lightning in Central Park

Went to NYC this weekend to say goodbye to some people. Am feeling cheap, so only took the subway once (going to the LES from Lincoln Center and back) and crossed Central Park about five times as well as walking to Lincoln Center from Grand Central and back.

At one point, coming back from a delicious, too-filling brunch of pancakes and sweet potato fries (ok, I didn't have the fries, my friend did), just as I was walking past the part of the park with the statue of the Angel of Bethesda, thunder clapped overhead. I had a good 15 minutes left of my walk and I had an old white T-shirt on, so I was getting a bit nervous and just kept on. Despite continuing ominous thunder crashes, the rain held off til the literal moment I put my hand on the revolving door to the lobby of Tower 67.

Went to see a matinee of Sunshine this morning. Warning: mild spoilers ahead.

I know it got pretty well shredded, but the film is truly stunning. I think the problem is that, up until a certain point, the audience thinks it's a certain kind of movie. It's science-fiction, but for the great extent of the movie, it's not Star Trek. And then, suddenly, with the arrival of a, let's say, new cast member, the film takes a sharp turn left. The cinematography of every scene in which this new cast member is a part becomes blurry, as if the DP was trying to shoot energy, which may indeed be the case. I think this is where most critics toss up their hands and call it a disaster, but I'm not entirely sure. The plot does become a bit slasher-flick, count-down-the-way-these-people-can-die, but what kind of movie would it be if these astronauts/scientists succeeded in their mission, then turned around and came home? This isn't Apollo 13.

So while the movie does seem deeply flawed, I'm not entirely sure that the flaws are the kind you want to iron out. And even if they are, and you can think of a better way Danny Boyle and his writer could have dealt with the last third of the movie, you can't deny that Sunshine is stunning. Startlingly so, really. Lightyears better than Solaris at least. So yeah, I recommend going to see it, for the delicate moments, the understated acting, and the almost too-predicatble chaos that plagues the mission -- you may love it despite yourself.

Also, I really dig the gold astronaut suits.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Perfume, Redux

I don't really know what redux means, but I'm sure I'm using it properly, being the Contess of Context that I am.

I finally watched Perfume, which has just come out on DVD, knowing full well it received mixed reviews. Following my viewing, I read these self-same reviews and was, to put it lightly, startled. What bothered most of the critics who disliked it is that Tom Tykwer tried to do the "impossible" -- film a book about smell. Well, if one can write a book well about smell, surely, making a movie about it would be no more or less difficult. The other seems to be that the people who disliked the movie don't seem to have liked the book (or read it at all) in the first place, but find it irritating that he stayed so true to the book.

Which is bollocks, really. What they all meant to say is that, considering it condensed the most dull third of the novel (that interminable cave scene) into about a minute of film, it really shouldn't have taken two and a half hours. Of course, it's difficult to make an appealing movie where the hero's a sociopath. Of course, it's difficult to evoke what Grenouille was going through. And?

The book was a cult hit. So it's no shock the movie wasn't going to be an overwhelming success. The pacing's slow and luxe, there's noone to empathize with (Alan Rickman's too one-track, and none of the girls are fully explored, but then again, we're largely seeing through the eyes of an obsessed man, who doesn't really consider the humanity of the populace, so that's not too shocking). I suppose if Tom really wanted a success, he should have changed the book a bit, made Laura more full a character, so we'd be rooting for not to die. But really, we don't care so much. We'd rather Grenouille finish his perfume (the tragedy would be if he failed to achieve that), and when he gets what he wants, and it still isn't enough, the audience still doesn't care because, well, how close can you get to a sociopath.

Not to say the actor doesn't do a great job playing Grenouille. He does. He's just not a character you go to bat for.

The movie's a funny thing. Filmed like a Rembrandt painting, when it's got an Irvine Welsh sort of soul, that's incongruous, and that's why Perfume is likely to leave alot of critics cold.

So. That's explaining that. Why did some like it? Because they loved the book, because they've been fans since Run, Lola, Run, because the acting by Ben Whishaw is superb, because it's a whole-hearted attempt, because it's lovely and because who doesn't love a movie with Alan Rickman? Because it's talking about needing to be human and failing, and, if you've got a strong stomach, you can appreciate that.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

This is amazing. I just totally figured out how to do the link within a word thing, which should upgrade the quality of my posts by, like,

a ton!


Just saw this guy on Last Comic Standing. Sadly, he didn't make it past the semi-finals, but still - hilarious!


I wonder if any writer has ever met a resolution they liked. For any character, for any person, resolution only comes with death -- which, in of itself, is only a resolution for the character who dies; for everyone else it's likely to only bring up more problems. Mysteries can have resolutions easily, but in a story based on character more than anything else, resolutions are impossible and, actually, bad.

So I think I'm just going to go with that impulse. To finish telling my story but not to tie up all the ends with some of the extensive amount of hemp I acquired at camp (I'm currently wearing two bracelets and an anklet -- thanks Ericka and Dana!). Just be aware that I'm only telling the story, really, of this period of time in these people's lives, along with background, but not really the future. A little of the future, but just for one character, and it's not the central protagonist. More importantly, I think, are the subplots and side stories that aren't so much going to be left dangling but as... well... they're all stowaways in my novel anyhow. Might as well throw them overboard. The people on the ship don't know what happens to them, and neither do we. We'll assume sunstroke and dehydration, leading to hallucination and eventual death, possibly cannibalism as well...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited

I know better. Wes Anderson has a fishing lure of bright colors, dry humor, exotic locales, and Owen Wilson, and I'm hooked. It's only later that I'll realize it's attached to a long line that yanks me out of the water into a sunlight that's going to broil me alive and steal all my oxygen.

In other words sometime the trailer is as much of a Wes Anderson movie as I can take.

OK, not really true. I've seen his entire oeuvre (well, maybe not Bottle Rocket... I get it confused with The Rocketeer, which I'm also not sure if I've seen or not -- this is why I now keep track of these things) and it's all been entertaining.


Sometimes the films are a little bit suffocating. Sometimes they spend too much time in their own metaphysical heads...

He's not the only director who does this. Paul Thomas Anderson, who I assume he is no relation to, also has a tendency to be a little too cool. I will still see all his movies because they are amazing and funny and beautiful. But I know to prepare myself because the film will undoubtedly feel longer than it is.

The Coen Brothers teeter. I met one of the Coen brothers once. Ethan -- the one not married to Frances McDormand. He's a cool cat.

Anyhow, Darjeeling looks swell, and I have nothing but the highest hopes that it will be genius. Actually, same for No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood.

I guess you can't teach a fish new tricks either.

Monday, July 23, 2007

On Beauty

Fi-nally finished this sublime book. I think the most remarkable skill of Zadie's is her ability to see the elemental. At one point she writes about photographs, and how the Belseys have far too many they never look at, just as we all do. It's so terribly, blissfully honest. We don't look at them and yet we are inclined to keep them, as we feel we must, because they've been so elevated into our consciousness. Without photos, how will we remember? That sort of thing.
And poor Zora Belsey. She is treated sympathetically and derisively at the same time, which shocks me, as I simply assumed Zadie Smith has everything, looks, talent, and so on, and could not possibly write about black women who are insecure in their bodies, or about anyone who has difficulty in life being who they think they should be. Not so. Her empathy knows no bounds -- she is so far removed that she can be tender and cruel at the same time. These are her babies, sure, but she is a firm, Spartan mother with them. Really, it's not Dickens, but she's just a pleasure to read. I can't wait for her next book and will read her over Bellow or Roth any day.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Naked men break into my room, gyrate and shout, then leave

True story that.

I'm back in CT, just saying my Northeastern goodbyes and getting ready to roll across the US of A to Sunny Sherman Oaks. I've seen a boy kiss a moth, the genitalia of a first year Columbia PhD candidate, and had a bird commit suicide on a car window shield just in front of me. It's been a long, long five weeks, and I'm both sad and elated it's over.

In the meantime, men, please don't shave your heads/ get mohawks. It will almost certainly not make you more attractive. So please, please, don't do it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Not a single Emmy nod for Friday Night Lights when it was the best thing on TV this year by yards and yards? Seriously, James Spader over Kyle Chandler? Anyone over Zach Gilford? I mean, WHAT??? The fact that it wasn't up for Best Drama Series is the most distressing snub.
Assuming awards mean anything. I just hate that all these inferior shows got nods and FNL got zilch. It pretty much negates the point of the Emmys (to award the best shows and acting/writing, so on and so on, as opposed to the most popular).
For once, I have no desire to watch the Emmys. Because, really, who cares?

Watched Sayles' Casa de Los Babys last night. Very different from Eight Men Out. No real plot, as it were, but a voyeuristic watching of these people in this part of Mexico, the people who run the Casa, work there, street kids who inhale spray paint, and the American women who come here for babies. All the actresses are great in their small but detailed parts. While I love Lili Taylor, hers feels the least subtle and nuanced of the parts; she's just a NYC woman with a well-earned superiority complex. Mary Steenburgen is awesome, as is the Irish woman and Maggie Gyllenhaal as the ultimate gringa. Marcia Gay Harden is frighteningly good at being a creepy overwhelming bitchtista and Darryl Hannah makes athleticism tragicly gorgeous. The Mexican maid, Asuncion, played by Vanessa Martinez (she's 4 years older than I am and looks 10 years younger) is minimalistic perfection, and Martha Higareda, who plays the 15 year-old pregnant girl, says little, and says it well.

Right, so not a particularly awesome movie, but it certainly has value. I kind of wish it had been a miniseries. I prefer full resolution...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Vicious/ Viscuous

Visited the Washington City Paper today, which seems like the optimal work environment, until you talk to the guy on the police beat, which churned up unpleasant memories of the YDN. Then we melted over a bridge and down Connecticut Avenue into the Smithsonian National Zoo, which is quite impressive considering there's an upward incline. But it was so friggin humid. Don't much like zoos, as the animals don't look terribly happy in their petite habitats. The golden lion tamarins, which roam freely, caught me by surprise as they crossed overhead, leaping from branch to branch with babies clinging to their ruddy back. Saw a fox on the bus trip home as well.
Camp has become somewhat unbelievable: we had to send some kids home for drinking, there was a meningitis scare, some locals threatened our kids with a gun (no actual gun showed up, just talk).
Almost done with Zadie Smith's On Beauty. There's nothing particularly remarkable about the book, but it's immensely readable. Boy does she evoke place like no one's business. She takes to the Boston/Cambridge area with as much ease and joy as Jhumpa Lahiri. And Kiki Belsey is a wonderful character, an everywoman who is, at the same time, almost impossibly unique. I'd recommend. It's like a beach read without the guilt. Haagan-Dazs chocolate sorbet if you will.
Workshopped/read the first act of my fellow creative writing teacher's play the other night. At one point, he'd written viscous in front of the worst thing you can call a woman, when he clearly meant vicious. We all nearly passed out laughing. And then, vicious came up later twice, and each time we were on the floor.
Good things happen.

So I've a place to stay in Bowling Green, a place to stay in Boulder, and hopefully other places on my way from CT to Los Angeles. Mucho excited. Now all I need is a job...

Friday, July 13, 2007

the rose stands alone

Should I someday have a suitable cash flow, I might actually be inclined to have a hidden door bookshelf. However, I don't know what precisely I might be trying to conceal behind this hidden door bookshelf, especially since part of me would be desperately hoping that all visitors would come upon it unawares. In fact I might be tempted to make it a not-so-hidden door bookshelf... I have to think this over a bit more...

One of the most interesting parts of Pan's Labyrinth, which I just showed to my class this morning, is the story Ofelia tells her little brother about the rose that offers eternal life and has thorns of deadly poison. No one is intrepid enough to climb the mountain and take the rose's gift -- too afraid of the poison -- so the rose wilts. This is not how most stories following such a premise are structured, and yet, it makes sense. What are you willing to sacrifice? For most of us the moon is too frightening a thing to shoot...

One last quote from yesterday...

Student X: State with alot of Mormons...
Student M: Minnesota!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Notable Quotables

Me (reading the news): Michael Richards is in Cambodia.
Judd: Adopting a baby?

Student J: So you already graduated?
Me: Actually, I just got my MFA... (and then, I almost fall out of my chair).

Student M: What's a mmmbop?
Student B: Shouldn't it be, what's an mmmbop?

Most of this takes place during Catchphrase, end of class today.

Student N: What rhymes with God?
Student J: Bod!

Student B (for phrase "filthy rich"): Dirty wealthy! Dirty wealthy!

Student A: It's a kind of meat! Meat! Meat!
Group: Chicken! Pork! Beef! Steak! Tacos!
Buzzer beeps.
Student AX: What was it?... A YAM??!!! A yam's not meat!

There's more, but I think you get the drift. After class, almost all my students thanked me for the best class they've ever had. That was nice.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Confined quarters with a bunch of snotty, disgusting, uninsured, unhealthy cretins meant I was probably going to get sick at some point. And then the campers came, and they weren't any better... hence, the flu.

I hurt so much I couldn't stop rubbing my eyes. I felt like someone had torn out my tear ducts with claws made of sandpaper. Enough phlegm has escaped my body in the last 72 hours to create a full-sized replica of the Swamp Thing.

But I feel better now.

Had a wonderful dream last night that FOX called me and wanted me out in Malibu (which is not where their studios are, mind you) ASAP. I was deliriously happy, heart so full it was going to break out of my chest with joy happy -- I'm not sure I've ever been that happy.

And then I opened my eyes, and... oh. Not yet. Not in life. Not yet.

Watched the first half of Goodbye, Lenin! last night, while waiting for the Nyquil knockoff to kick in. Didn't. So went to sleep anyway.

Starting to plan my cross-country trip to LA. Hoping to stop in Vegas and by the Grand Canyon on the way. Maybe through Boulder too...

Saturday, July 7, 2007

It's reenactment weekend here in Gettysburg, which means lots of people dressed up like it's the 1860s. Kind of like living in a nightmare.

Red moon last night. Went to the observatory and checked out its craters and mountains through some high-powered telescopes. Also Jupiter and a star cluster.
Jupiter's moons appeared only as tiny points of bright light.

Think I'm getting sick. Sneezing all day -- thought it was allergies, but now I have that warmth in my head that makes me think it's worse, and the tickle in the back of my throat, which isn't really a tickle, more like a plastic toy stegosaurus rubbing the back of my tonsils.

Watched 'Deja-Vu' tonight with some of the teachers/Evening Coordinators. Takes a long time for stuff to happen. And not very many explosions, considering it's a Bruckheimer film. Still. Gotta love Denzel.

Tomorrow a new session begins. Sigh. Everything I've already done, I now have to repeat. I'd rather have to do the whole explosion/ferry/Val Kilmer thing...

Bought a pen with a blue stretchy lizard thing attached to it. Amazing. Will use it to write a masterpiece... maybe.

Got a job interview, but they need to hire immediately and I'm not in LA yet. Crud.

Danced like a fiend Thursday night.

Met a friend's wife recently. Feel very, very bad he chose to spend the rest of his life with this woman.

That should do it...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

DC, "Virgins of the Getty," and so on

Happy Indie Day!

Went to DC yesterday to the Folger Shakespeare Library, which, let's get real, did not capture our kids' imaginations. It's just a little hall, as the theatre's being renovated.
It was hot and we have some anti-zoo kids, and the Zoo was far, far away. So we walked to the Smithsonian and let the bratlings loose for a bit. Amazing sculpture garden with this one piece, an overcoat sans the body, by someone or other. Lovely. Went to the Natural History Museum. Hope diamond was a disappointment, giant ground sloth was not.

My class is writing a sitcom called "Virgins of the Getty." Little geniuses.

Other stuff going on, don't want to talk about... feel a bit like I'm living in a mechanical toy circus. I'm winding down just as everything else is going into overdrive, little metal people smashing into each other.

Downloaded "Danny's Song." And how...

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Baltimore, Harrisburg Senators, and lack of sleep

Finished A Clockwork Orange. Deranged book and incredibly difficult. I don't know how you read the book not knowing Russian, and it was plum rough going even when you do know it, but it's a real horrorshow read. Rec'd.

Watched Apocalypto. Though I too am wary of supporting Mad Mel Gibson, you got to admit, the film, while madly violent, is also a pretty damn fine piece of film-making. Original, arresting, and by far the most interesting film I've seen about Native Americans/American Indians -- ever.

Friday night went to a minor league baseball game in Harrisburg on City Island. Passed a place called Radius with a giant chick in the window. Senators were up 5-0 against the Reading Phillies when it started to rain and we chucked it. Some guy named Garciaparra was playing. Not Nomar. Obvi.

Saturday to Baltimore's Inner Harbor, which Blessed Be, had a Cheesecake Factory. Lovely day, bought an utterly inappropriate T-shirt for my stepdad, which I realized, thankfully, five minutes later and had the chance to return, and impulse purchased six books at (don't throw junk at me) Barnes and Noble. Sahara by Michael Palin, a for-some-reason shrink-wrapped Evia by Sarah Wheeler, The Sea by John Banville, The Children of Men by PD James, The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason and Under the Volcano by Malcolm Cowley. This was a bit of a mistake.

Today was supposed to be my "day off." Instead one of the campers woke me up at 6 with a dislocated shoulder and that took up the morning. Gettysburg Hospital's lovely by the way. Then we had to go into the rodeo around which Gettysburg unspools with the kidalings. Went and sat at a bakery place called Seasons or something. The "male nurse" then lost one of our volleyballs in the rather repugnant manmade lake where we have our barbeques...

And that was my weekend. Je suis fatigue.
In summing up, I wish I had some kind of affirmative message to leave you with. I don't. Would you take two negative messages?
-- Woody Allen