Four Movies, Five Days

Which really isn’t that many, I know. I mean, I used to love cueing up the whole STAR TREK series, watching them back to back. Anyway, all over the spectrum here:

SYNECHDOCHE, NEW YORK. Free screening with Charlie Kaufman there for the Q&A. Which was great. Or, great if you like watching somebody writhe under a series of ridiculous questions. But he handles them well, seems like a good guy. And, as for SYNECHDOCHE, I don’t know. I mean, I was all over BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and ADAPTATION, and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND was fun, in that good HEAVEN CAN WAIT way. And this one, it has all the trappings, for sure — the intelligent kind of slapstick Kaufman’s known for — but . . . it’s kind of like if you give David Lynch just free rein to make a movie about making movies, you get something like INLAND EMPIRE. Which I thought was great, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve been sold on Lynch for a long time now, so am maybe not the best critic. SYNECHDOCHE, though. For the first fifty minutes or so, it’s great, is all kinds of fun. Even though, sure, you can feel the narrative kind of holding its breath, getting ready to spool out into the comic unknown. But then the story, it starts getting just so nested. Which again, I mean, I worship at the PKD altar, I cut my teeth on Barth; nesting’s what it’s about. The problem here, though, I think it’s that we get that initial carpet pulled out from under our feet — whoah, this is all kind of a play? reflections of reflections etc? — but then the narrative stops escalating. Or, the development, it’s all horizontal. There’s no more carpet to deprive us of. The same way THE MATRIX blew us away, thereby kind of dooming the next two if they didn’t do the same thing, so the first half of SYNECHDOCHE sets the second up to fail. Not at all sad I went, though.

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Two Fast Links

Texas Monthly‘s been doing this serial novel, TWIN WELLS. I’ve got chapter 11. Podcast too. Here. First line: “Baldwin wished he could have mustered a bit more surprise when the dead man rose from the road in the sheriff’s headlights.”

New interview up at Rain Taxi.

And a third link too: I’m on Facebook now, finally. Been getting the invites forever, never clicked all the way through until now. This could be the link. Maybe?

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Incunabula

That sounds like some secret cousin to the incubus, yeah? If I’m even spelling it right. Anyway, was digging through some old stuff yesterday and found this sheet of paper from 1997, when I was finishing Fast Red Road, trying to make it all straight in my head (somewhat). Think the only other novel I’ve done something along these lines for was All the Beautiful Sinners. Though I did, a while back, while paging through some years-old notebook looking for something I had to have written down, find a little note. Something like “Most successful serial killer in American history hides under tornadoes.” Written while watching that scary-voiced America’s Most Wanted, it seems.

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The Least of My Scars

fried zucchini

One of my better memories is working for this seed research company fifteen years or so ago. Way out north of Lubbock, TX. There was this guy called Rooster who ran a lot of cotton and sorghum out there, fields which were all on the way to the plots we worked every day. Rooster was a shortish old guy who wore these round black sunglasses. I only ever saw him sitting in his truck. To paint it better, really, I only ever saw him sitting in his truck when I was running fast away, pretending not be carrying these big armfuls of squash and zucchini. Deal was, instead of dedicating a full eight rows for a garden patch like a lot of farmers will, Rooster had got tired of people like us treating it as the produce section. So he’d plant just one long row, way out lost in the middle of the cotton. However, he didn’t count on this one guy we had on the crew, out of either Frisco or Monday, I can’t remember anymore. He had the magic eyes. We’d let him sit by the front window of whatever truck, and he could look out across a field and pick out the one leaf that wasn’t catching the sun the same as the rest, and he’d point, and we’d pile out of the truck, be jumping rows, filling our shirts, getting to all our different kitchens that night and frying just mounds of squash and zucchini. And yeah, fried zucchini, it’s good all on its lonesome, of course. But stolen fried zucchini? It really doesn’t get any better.

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Hindsight: Appaloosa

The western may be one of the few if not only genres where character development is actually at crosspurposes with audience expectations. We don’t want the passing-through cowpoke/gunhand/lawman/whatever to actually change, do we? Isn’t it all better if they stay the same? Granted, maybe a more intense version of themselves, of the self they’re trying not to be anymore, as in Tombstone, or even a reversion to who they used to be, as in in Unforgiven, but still, in neither of those westerns do you have the protagonist really learning something, having an aha moment about himself, or his place in the world. The only epiphanies are plot-specific: ‘They went that way, Jeb,’ or, ‘So that cattle baron is behind all this . . . ‘

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Beautiful line

It’s by Roger Ebert, in his review for Nights in Rodanthe: “Paul doesn’t evacuate because of some dialogue he is made to say.” I don’t see how I could love anything more than that. It’s even better in context, too. And, as for why I was reading about Nights in Rodanthe. No idea. I was feeling around, seeing if Blindness was going to be watchable (pun?), then got all excited about Appaloosa, and suddenly, bam, there I was finding that beautiful and perfect line (only other movie write-up line I’ve ever loved this much, almost, was a non-review somewhere did for The Astronaut’s Wife, where, instead of actually commenting on the movie, they re-presented a condensed/mocked-up form of the script, which exaggerated all the weaknesses etc. It was beautiful and perfect, had Johnny Depp wearing a pink boa, I think, but even the day after I read it (years and years ago) I wasn’t able to find it again).

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Lost in the Funhouse (with a television set)

So, the LOST writers claim not to be lost at all. They’re not just reeling the episodes out from nothing. It’s all going somewhere, somehow, some perfect way. Moreover (first time I’m using that word. cool, yeah?), they also guarantee that this crazy upside-down inside-out unfantasy island, it’s not some form of limbo or purgatory, where dead non-MILLENIUM (the Kristofferson one) plane passengers go, and I’m guessing they’ve probably — and this would just be good marketing, because the audience right now needs the stories they ingest to ‘matter,’ where ‘mattering’ is pretty much qualified by how ‘real’ or ‘truthy’ the thing is, which, in LOST’s case, comes down to, well this: —* also suggested in some sidelong way that neither is this some side-dimension, some parallel reality. Rather, it’s our world, it’s deeper into our world, it’s the world we could step into at any moment, as establised by six famous ones actually stepping back into what would seem to be our world.

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T-minus 24: Brown U.

I’m there tomorrow night, Family Guy* territory. Reading stuff aloud. Maybe eating a cookie or two, answering questions. Here for more specific type of info.

Too, thanks to my students, I’m now hooked into Salad Fingers. Better late than never, I figure.

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* which I’ve still yet to ever see an episode of — though I did accidentally tune in once, some Star Wars tribute/mockery stuff going on that looked pretty intelligent. fun, at least. if I knew it better, though, I could maybe snag some image of somebody reading stuff aloud there, use it here. but alas.

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My New Favorite Hour of Television.

a Clevenger nod

FRINGE, yep. Best series opener I think I’ve seen. And that’s including the white bears in LOST, the aliens in X-FILES, the space jellyfish in STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION, the plummeting cheerleader in HEROES, the (if I’m remembering correctly) sewn-up mouths in MILLENIUM, the look on Tom Vail’s face when Alyson denies knowing him in NOWHERE MAN, and even the tomfoolery in BRISCO COUNTY, JR. Too, they’ve set the dynamic up well, it looks like. That’s always the trick with serial drama: come up with a formula that can spit out episodes without ever quite ratcheting up to the truly ridiculous. It’s why detective shows tend to work more than anything else — because you just plug the same team or p.i. or whatever into a new ‘case.’ It worked in the stars too, for Kirk & Company, was even their mandate (okay, ‘mission’). And Olivia Dunham, she seems to be consciously modeled on Julianne Moore’s character in THE FORGOTTEN. Which is a good choice. And the show itself, at least the debut, seemed to be cobbled together from things that had worked elsewhere. Again: smart. And, granted, we could see most of the twists coming, but the level of the writing, for me at least, didn’t lessen their effect any. It maybe even made it better, in that it was satisfying that the things you didn’t want to happen finally didn’t happen. [ spoiler alert . . .] Like, say, what a mistake it would have been to have given her a steady guy. You never want your protagonist to be so stable, right? To have any kind of homebase to return to? And the block-letter, in-scene-yet-invisible-to-the-characters location title things (surely there’s a less clunky name for the effect), they’re the coolest. And the effects this lot was able to get away with, especially the zombies on a plane part. Very impressed. Throughout. Will be there til it’s over, but’ll be watching this one again before next week, too.

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Seven Things I Learned Today

from trying on just a whole lot of women’s clothes:

1) While I can wiggle into 9/10 pants or slacks, 11/12 is a lot more comfortable.

2) Extra-large in a blouse isn’t even a large in men’s sizes.

3) People will watch you, if you carry enough blouses and pants suits into the dressing room.

3b) That makes it better, really.

4) Even when I’ve got them on, still, women’s clothes are hard to get into.

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