Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Library Book Project

For those of you who weren't helping me haul boxes on Sunday (thanks Eeon, Mike and Tim!), I moved (again) to a little two-bedroom rental house on a private road with a yard that you could film an episode of Justified on.  And for those of you who haven't known me very long, I have a rich and sordid history of moving.  Since I was eighteen, I have packed and unpacked sixteen times, making this most recent move my seventeenth.  On average, I stay in a place for about nine months, the longest stay being three years on Chestnut Street . . . and in all likelyhood, we'll be packing up and moving out of this place in the spring, with the intentions of buying a house.

Each time I've moved, I've gotten rid of more stuff.  This time, I got rid of a ton of clothes and books.  All my lit mags were handed off to Mike, a hefty chunk of pulp novels went to Amber in exchange for bagfuls of awesome sweaters and dresses (and sweater-dresses, including a blue-green hooded one I've craved ever since I first saw her wear it at the Green Earth).  Records and DVDs went to both the Oneonta Teen Center (including the first entry in "Teenage Wasteland," Empire Records) and The Vault in exchange for a few bucks.  Clothes that weren't traded went to the consignment shop, and clothes that they wouldn't take went to Salvation Army.  Some books went to a used book store, others were given away . . . and those that I couldn't bear to part with were packed up and stored.

I've decided that, for the length of time that I'm here, I'm going to rely on the library and books handed off to me by friends.  I realized that I rarely read a book twice (with the exception of The Long Goodbye, which I read yearly) and that having a ton of books on hand did little but take up space.  I realized that simply having The Handmaiden's Tale on my bookshelf did not mean that I was ever going to read it.

Also, I recently discovered the pleasures of going to the library.  Unlike bookstores, which seem very very daunting to me, a library has a sense of quiet order to it.  There's the sense that, because you're reading on borrowed time, that the reading takes priority.  If I take out The Handmaiden's Tale, I'd better read it in 14 days or cough up a quarter for each day I delay.  The best part is that the library is free, and there's no clutter or anything to pack up at the end.  If I don't like a book, I can take it back, no questions asked.

This isn't to say I don't support the Green Toad, my local bookstore.  I love small bookstores much more than any big-box mega-store on the planet.  And this doesn't mean I'll be getting an e-reader anytime soon either.  I like the feel of a book in my hand, and I like to give books as gifts. 

But I consider this an opportunity and a challenge--if this was a stunt blog, I'd make careful notes about my library experience as a way of preserving libraries or other such silliness.  Heaven knows I'm not so great about keeping up with the blog and the last thing I need is another column to write.  If anything, this new undertaking is a way of clearing out the clutter of my life and of getting back out in the community.  Ordering a book for a penny on Amazon doesn't force me to interact with anyone (not even the mailman, because our mailbox is located at the absolute top of our driveway).  Having to go to the library will force me to engage with others. . . and I don't think that will be a bad thing.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Holy cats, I just got back from seeing Steely Dan, and it was awesome.  "Rarities" night at Beacon . . . demos, songs they wrote for other people, songs that didn't fit on albums, songs they only did in concert and one that go erased in the studio during Gaucho and had never been re-recorded . . . and, of course, "Peg" and "Reelin' in the Years."

It was too awesome for words .  . . but worry not, I'll have plenty of words on the Emmys tomorrow . . . well, really only one . . . either a "NO!" or a "WHOO-HOO!"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kurt Sutter IS Nathan Rabin in PEOPLE LIBBY HATES

Despite writing, acting on and executive producing The Shield, Kurt Sutter still manages to be a tremendous douchebag.  Not only did he throw a pissy little bitch fit because the lame Sons of Anarchy didn't get nominated for an Emmy, but now he's saying that, not only is TV written for men, but "I've learned that men write shows about the struggles of men better than women. . . men can write male characters more accurately."

Pictured: Kurt Sutter's Emmy
Fuck you, Kurt Sutter.

Never mind that Shawn Ryan said that there is no reason why women, who make up the majority of the TV watching audience, shouldn't be in the writer's room.

And never mind that FX, on both which Sons of Anarchy and The Shield ran, is pretty much the ass network.  There are naked male backsides galore.  You can't tell me that isn't there for the ladies to enjoy . . . your arguement doesn't wash, Sutter, so shut your stupid mouth.
I am a broad and my male characters kick ass.  Check out the Jay in "The Weather Girl" or Johnny in "Johnny Strikes Up The Band".  Don't you sit there and tell me that because of gender I don't understand how to write the other.  It's this kind of bullshit sexism that makes middle-age women blame the patriarchy for why they can't masturbate and then I have to listen to them read lurid descriptions of "self-discovery" at open mics and other such literary events.
You're ruining it for everybody, Sutter.  Just because you behave like little girl who didn't get a Bratz doll for her 6th birthday doesn't mean the rest of us have to. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Teenage Wasteland: Monkeybone

Wish I Had a Brendan Fraser in B&W Pajamas
When I was 19. Brendan Fraser in leather pants was about the sexiest thing in the world. It was just before I developed my super-crush on Ewan McGregor, and I unabashedly loved Monkeybone. It was a huge influence on my fashion in college; I have a black-and-white cocktail dress inspired by the one Fonda is wearing in the dream sequence at Hypno's and used to own a green velvet dressed modified to look like the one Rose McGowan wears in the prison break.  I also have a little plush Monkeybone in black-and-white pajamas.

I might be the only one, and in later watchings, I can only barely see why.

Yes, it's a weirdly messy film.  In the directory commentary, Selick reveals that a lot of key scenes got lost in editing and that Fox kept insisting it be raunchier, which explains the extended and awful Chris Kattan sequences (punctuated by Brendan Fraser in leather pants singing a version of "She's a Brick House" that tragically gets blander as I get older).  But the parts of it that are good, namely the Downtown sequences, are amazing.  They're creeply and playful and weird, which makes them even more creepy.  I've always loved Tex-Avery/Carnival visuals of Hell, Purgatory and the Afterlife, and Monkeybone had all of them.  The use of black and white, the lavish puppets are top knotch, but why the hell would anyone want to see puppets when they can see Chris Kattan playing essentially a rotting version of his Mango character? Oh that's right, no one.  Pandering to your audience never works, kids.
But in later viewings, I do see why the film didn't hold up with mainstream audiences.  It required a knowledge of what the product was supposed to look like, rather than what it did.  It required the viewer to look past Chris Kattan and see the beautiful visuals, the lovely Anne Dudley score (why they didn't get co-star Bridget Fonda's husband Danny Elfman to compose is beyond me)

I've always felt a little sorry for Henry Selick--he's the real director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, and his talent for stop-motion is unmatched.  Burton was originally supposed to be part of Monkeybone, but dropped out and left Selick hanging, which might explain why Fox felt they could push him around.  Adding insult to injury, Burton went with another animation company on The Corpse Bride.  But then Henry Selick kicked his ass by returning with Coraline, so I guess he won the puppet wars in the end. 

Ultimately, Monkeybone suffers from the same style-over-substance that destroyed Cool World (another flop I've got a soft spot for) But there is some substance in there, buried deep underneath a lot of lameness.  It's a film that I'm better off not watching again, instead savoring what I remember it being rather than what it might actually be. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Food. Sir Mix-A-Lot and My Ass Complex

For some reason, at every wedding I've been too, the DJ plays "Baby Got Back."  Nothing ruins a hip-hop song more than seeing your mom/your dentist/your friend's aunt doing the humpty-hump.

I love this song, but it's giving me a complex about my own backside.  I've been told that I have, as Mickey Rourke put it in 9 1/2 Weeks, a "heart-shaped ass," but at 5'3" and 98 lbs (through no dieting or planning of my own) I'm sad because Sir Mix A-Lot wouldn't stop his Mercades to whistle at me.  I'm fine with being an A-cup, but I wouldn't mind having a bigger booty so I could effectively dance to this song because as it is, I feel like a dope out there.  I've only recently gotten over not being a Brick House, but I'm just not content to be lumped in with the "skinny girls."  Especially because when people say "skinny girls" it always comes with a sneer.

I love food.  And I know, people hate when "skinny girls" say that they love to eat, but ask any man I've ever gone out with and he'll comfirm, which has always made me a very popular date.  I love to cook (which also made me a popular date).  I love red meat and good cheese and crusty bread, dear God, I love bread.  And fruit desserts topped with lots of fresh whipped cream.  And bacon and eggs in the morning. Salt bagels with Nutella.  Life is too short not to eat delicious food . . . especially with beautiful boys.  So please, Sir Mix-A-Lot, show me some love.

That being said, if I am ever in a position to make a mix tape for Walton Goggins, you know this is going to be the first song on there. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In Dreams

When I'm not lying awake and panicking or having wake-up-screaming nightmares, I tend to dream very cinematically and, if I'm lucky, can remember the dreams when I wake up.  I've gotten some of what I consider my best work out of dreams, and I credit this to three of them starring Walton Goggins.  It's like getting to watch my favorite TV shows while I'm asleep, and sleeping is something I love even more than watching TV.

Nice of you to invite me into
your dreams
The third, which I wrote over the weekend while trying to avoid writing an article about the devestating flood that washed away Middleburg and Schoharie, (I grew up in Schoharie County, two towns over) was inspired by the one dream I didn't have about flooding.  No, in this dream, I got shot while during an interview and wound up in Purgatory, with Walton Goggins and Jay Karnes playing my roommates (but not as themselves or any of their characters) 

I wrote it in a very different way than I've written any of my other dreams.  The narrative is very short and the whole thing comes to 912 words and is written with minimal description and dialogue much like "Hotel Jesus".  It made me rethink how stories are written.

Traditionally, fiction is taught in that Raymond Carver school--long, plenty of dialogue and description, a slow build to a climax, a short story as we all picture a short story.  But in flash fiction, there isn't room for that.  And I suppose I could have written "Purgatory Blues" the same way I wrote "Keyton's Keys" (which also came from a dream and also starred Walton Goggins")  which clocked in at just over 6K.  I could have described Purgatory in full detail, but for whatever reason (laziness, I imagine) it called out for a more compact format.

So I began to wonder--do we choose the story's format, or does it write itself?  I have a friend who refuses to write anything under 15K.   He just doesn't think he can.  Never mind that most places won't pay for and publish that length of work anymore, and although plenty of online lit mags (like Tin House) will publish longer work, he wants to get paid.  It's fair, I suppose, but do all stories need to be told in long form?  Is more description, scenery and dialogue required in order to tell a proper story?

I didn't set out to write a flash fiction piece.  If anything, on "Hotel Jesus," I actively tried to avoid it for fear of becoming a malcontented douche.  But after what seemed like a hundred false starts, I settled into the form of "movements" and short scenes that became the Pank-published piece it is today.  All without becoming a malcontented douche.  Let's hope the same works on "Purgatory Blues"

Monday, September 5, 2011

Teenage Wasteland: Empire Records

In keeping with my reminiscing about my late teens/early 20's, I took a personal day and watched Empire Records.  I was 19 when I saw this movie, a full five years after it came out, but I watched it in Oklahoma, the first summer I was out there after Martin, who I saw every time I was out there, dumped me to marry someone else, and only shortly after Dan, who looked exactly like Lucas, (black sweater and all) broke my heart. 

When I wasn't holed up in my room watching movies rented from Blockbuster and listening the Smiths on my discman, I was sulking around in my Doc Martens and getting told by my now-ex-stepfather that I was an embarassment to our family.And having worked in a chain music store (and a chain video store), I could only have dreamed of getting to pick whatever I wanted to listen to instead of having to listen to Crutch eight hours a day.  I liked to imagine I could live a life where I worked part time at a cool place and had an apartment with a plaid couch and got to wear awesome clothes and play records.  Empire Records was pretty much pornography for me.

I kept Empire Records around in later years as a guilty pleasure because, frankly, it's not that good of a movie.  It breaks the 4th wall in weird places, it's so carefully plotted and intricatly designed to appeal to a generic "teen" audience with fake edginess, pseduo-deep problems (Gina is a slut who hates herself, Cory is a secret speed addict to keep up her perfect appearence, AJ wants to go to art school but is too scared, one girl tries to kill herself) and radio-friendly soundtrack packaged to showcase the hottest new bands (Cracker, Better than Ezra, the Cranberries and the Gin Blossoms). 
I watched it today because I needed some cheering up.  And despite all of it's awful, it did the trick.    I like movies with 90's pop music, guys in black turtlenecks, combat boots with plaid skirts and Renee Zellwegger.  I'm difficult to pander to, but it's nice that someone made the effort.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

College Mix CD Time!

I came of age during that shameful period of music known as the late 90's.  This was when VH1 ruled the airwaves, handing us down the top ten videos of the day (who decided these things?) in a never-ending loop of Smash Mouth,  Shawn Colvin, Sugar Ray, Fastball, and Savage Garden.  The radio was alive with ska and neo-swing from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the Cherry Poppin' Daddies.  Thanks to the Spice Girls, a short girl could easily purchase platform shoes tall enough so she could kiss Jeff Goldblum squarely on the mouth, should the chance ever present itself (my knee-high platform boots had dragons up the side and caused me to be late to math class enough times to warrent more than one detention).

My college years were earmarked by two things--Clerks (both the movie and the cartoon, which I still quote) and the 90's music I had come of age with.  Now that I didn't have to share the lone family computer and dial-up internet access with three sisters, a mother who was finishing college and online-poker obsessed stepdad, I was free to peruse Kazaa for songs I was too cheap to buy on CD and that had been lost to mix-tape technology years ago.  Better still, my friend Courtney was living in a dorm with fast internet (for the time) and a computer that could burn CDs.  I would send her lists and she would return with CDs when she came home on weekends.  Fiona Apple.  Barenaked Ladies.  Classics like "Call Me Al" and "Burnin' for You."  Theme songs from TV shows like The Advntures of Pete and Pete and Roundhouse   I played Love Amomg Freaks "Clerks" and wrote chapters for what was sure to be my breakout novel (it wasn't). 

Baby Boomers and hipsters like to mock people for liking late 90's/early 2000 music, always forgetting that it was what surrounded us.  Our parents could play all the Beatles records they wanted, our older siblings could give us Smiths CDs, but like it or hate it, this was the music that we came into our own with.  For a lot of us, these were the first CDs we'd purchase with our own money, making that transition from cassette to CD (my first was Savage Garden's eponymous debut--and for the record, "I Want You" still holds up--the rest don't, but that remains a solidly crafted song--also, the keyboard player was smokin' hot).  Embarassing as some of them are, there's a lot of joy there, a reminder of carefree days . . . and really, isn't the whole point of music to make a listener feel something? 

Next time you're in the car, bust out the Goo Goo Dolls.  Sing "She's So High" to your girlfriend at karaoke.  Play "Fly" at a party and see how many of your friend's faces light up.  Tell high school stories.  Remember old jokes and quote movies from your teenager years. You have nothing to be ashamed of.