Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Boys on Film Guide to Being Deathly Ill

If you're anything like me, you're going to work yourself into a crippling cold/flu sometime this winter.  And if you're anything like me, you're also going to be a big baby about it.  When I am sick, I require the utmost in pampering and comfort, i.e. making a nest on the couch, catering to my demands for drugs/remedies and letting me watch whatever I want to watch on TV.

For your convenience, I've compiled my essential pairings for surviving the flu season--these remedies and shows are tested and proven to go together like apples and sharp chedder, bacon and eggs, Morrissey and crying a lot . . . you get the idea.

1) Breaking Bad and Nighttime Theraflu: Theraflu is such a wonderful invention.  It tastes so, so gross, but when it kicks in, you feel great.  You don't even care that you're sick . And I'm pretty sure you can make meth out of it (which is probably why it's so effective) making it a perfect choice for when you're skipping chemistry.  It's science, yo.

2) Law and Order and Chicken Soup: L&O is the ultimate in comfort.  For all the bad stuff there is in the world, you know that in 55 minutes, all will be well again.  I recommend original L&O because Sam Waterson and Jerry Orbach exude a stern, grandfatherly
warmth, like forcing you to push fluids because they know what's best for you and you know they're right.

3) Bernie Mac and Saltines and Ginger Ale: Last AWP I got food poisoning, and God bless Matthew, he trooped out in the D.C rain to find me ginger ale and saltines while I stayed in my room, watching Bernie Mac only because I was too weak to change the channel.  They were running a marathon, and when he got back, we watched all day.  It was funny, heartwarming, and clever enough without going over my foggy head.

4) Mystery Science Theater 3000 and ginger tea: I love MST3K, but even more than that, I love falling asleep in front of MST3K.  It's a steady stream of level noise, rarely punctuated by any explosions (which would have cost too much) or yelling.  The movies are boring, and Joel has such a soft, comforting voice, you almost can't help but drift off. (Pod People also has that sleepy new-age soundtrack)  The ginger settles your tummy, opens up your sinuses and reduces inflammation.  The best ginger tea, by the way, is made from ginger chews--pour boiling water over one and stir until dissolved.

Me again!
5) Beetlejuice and Green Tea: This works so well I recommend it to my students in my syllabus.  Beetlejuice gets better every time you watch it, and green tea is really good for you.

Get well soon!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lyrics I Like: "Boys of Summer" by Don Henley

Who's with me that the famous Don Henley lyric "I can tell you, my love for you will still be strong/after the Boys of Summer have gone . . ." would be a hell of a lot better if it was:

"I can tell you, my love for you will still be strong/after the poison spiders have gone . . . "

 I think it's a much more evocative lyric, describing two lovers separated by a giant spider invasion, hoping to be reunited when and if they both survive . . . way better than some dumb summer romance.

That's what is sounds like he's saying, anyways.  Why Warren Zevon hired such a mushmouth as a backup singer, I'll never know.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am grateful this Thanksgiving for, besides my readers, finally having enough sense to say to hell with National Novel Writing Month and writing my book on my own damn time.  For finally figuring out that Chris Baty is just a dope with a website who doesn't determine my writing career, and that this book will get done when it gets done and no sooner.

Morrissey once sang, "There's more to life than books, you know," and I'm starting to realize that.  For so long, I defined myself by my work.  I had to work harder, stronger and more than everyone else because I had to prove that I could, that I wasn't just another lazy slob like everyone thought I was.  It was routinely suggested by both friends and family that I not even bother applying to most colleges, because I wasn't good enough to get in.  What that instilled in me was a merciless drive to succeed, to prove them wrong, often at the cost of my health or employers taking advantage of that ethic as a means of paying me less for more work . . . but this past year has shown me that none of that really matters.  What matters is the friends that I love, my fluffy kitten and my boyfriend.

This isn't to say that I've given up on writing or that I'm taking a step back.  Not at all.  I still have that drive to succeed, but it's going to be on my terms.  I'm not going to kill myself for another book that won't sell.  I'm not going to beg for acceptance anymore.  And it is that peace, that faith that something larger than myself will sustain me, that I am most grateful for this year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fighting Fish

My friend Eeon had a video camera back in college and used to film all sorts of weird things, like me talking to our friend Jim about pornography (and inserting Chewbacca in post) or making a music video for his hit song "Emo Kid," the follow up to 2003's "Crazy Werewolves" and both featured on his album Bad Music for Bad People, still rated as Triangulon Records top-selling album. He also served as the cinematographer on my film Barbie Girls which, God willing, will never see the light of day.

But here, in it's entirety, is perhaps Eeon's most famous film, "Fighting Fish."

Eeon is really a master of sound, bringing to the film a Thom York-esq understanding of how sound can create not merely a mood, but an unconcious understanding of the underlying construct of the scene.  These are not just melodies, these are emotional notes.  The set design and the clever use of garbage, including the tin cans covering the windows--perhaps to block out the ever-present eyes of the Big-Brother-esq Department of Social Productivity (played with a subtle sinisterness by Jim Devona) give this film a gritty, Robocop-Detroit feel inside a confined apartment space, creating a realm which is both concrete and abstract in it's twisted parinoia.  It is not merely a box of Zebra Cakes, it is our faceless narrator's increasingly tangled emotional state, a head full of junk, not unlike the twisted wreckage of the car crash that claimed his parents lives.

Really, there isn't enough room on this blog to dissect and get to the core of "Fighting Fish."  It is a stark, brutal film, one that haunts and lingers long after the credits roll.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

This Week in Musical Obsessions

"The Moment" by Atomic Tom.  I don't sleep when I'm in NYC and find myself watching a lot of basic cable, usually culminating with me catching a few precious minutes of zzz's in front of Two and Half Men.

One night, while flipping channels, I came across the Fearless Music showcase, featuring Atomic Tom's "The Moment."  As you've probably noticed, I'm pretty damn cynical about modern music, but this just blew my mind--it reminded me of something I could remember, struck up an emotion I couldn't name. 

I like real love songs--songs like The Replacements "I Will Dare" that capture the awkward desparation of falling in deeply, madly, passionately infatuated in love. "The Moment" is exactly that.  It's about that one moment where you get that absolute rush of love, those great terrifying shivers that cause you to seize up and go silent (or worse, babble) in your beloved's presence.

I'm pretty much done falling in love.  I've met the man of my dreams and we've been together for awhile.  But sometimes I miss that tipping-backwards feeling of a new love.  That's where music comes in.  It's fantasy.  For 4 minutes and 35 seconds, I can remember that rush without having to go through all the trouble of falling in love again.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Record Party!

My friend/Odd Couples stage manager Thor came over last night for an oft-delayed record party.  Holding a record party is simple, you just get some records and play them and maybe have some food and talk about whatever comes to mind. We talked about our high school music teacher Mrs. Sobieski, apartment hunting, tattoos we'll never get but like to joke about, really, just random stuff.

One of the really cool things about record parties is that because the record sleeves are so BIG, you notice the names of the musicians who played on them and can draw neat parallels between the session musicians.  For instance, last night I noticed that Rick Marotta played drums on both Steely Dan's The Royal Scam and Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy.  Neat, huh?  And sure, you can look that up on the internet, but without it right in front of you, would you?

We got through Katy Lied, The Queen is Dead, Rockabilly Classics and the first disc of Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King.  We chatted.  We drank pink lemonade.

And then Thor put on Justin Towne Earle's Midnight at the Movies and the game changed.

When I was finishing the first season Justified, starting the currently in-between-titled novel I'm writing now (not for NaNoWriMo) and planning for my two-week trip to Oklahoma, I became very interested in Kentucky.  I rented Harlan County USA and watched it the instant it came in the mail.  What really struck me about it was all the singing.  They were out on the picketline, singing union songs from the early part of the century.  One woman wrote a song to teach everyone.  Not in a "I'm going to go to Nashville and record an album" kind of song, but a song to say what she was thinking.  Song, in this culture, was a means of communication.  It was raw and unacompanied and sung to get a message across.

And that's what I heard when I heard Justin Towne Earle.  It was music in it's pure, raw form, and it was heartbreaking and sad and lovely and wonderful.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to put it on a mix CD and mail it to Walton Goggins.  I wanted to listen to that album all night long.  He covered "Can't Hardly Wait," which automatically endears him to me because I love The Replacements.

That's the magic of a record party.  Your friends bring some stuff you don't know, you play some stuff they don't know.  Thor got his first real taste of Warren Zevon.  I discovered Justin Townes Earle.  And at the end of the evening when we said goodnight, I realized how such a quiet little evening had reintroduced me to two friends--not just Thor, but the power and the core of music itself.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

F*** You, NaNoWriMo

I had a major breakthrough with NaNoWriMo this week--it can go to hell.

It's not that I'm giving up.  I planned to write 60K in 30 days.  It's a doable goal, and I intend to finish it . . . but if for whatever reason, I don't, my life is not over because some twerp in California decided 30 days makes or doesn't make me a novelist.

NaNoWriMo plays on a culture of selfishness--it encourages people, good, normal people, to abandon their families, their pets, their pleasures in life to indulge in a pathetic attempt to create meaning.  These are not real novelists.  A quick glance at the Published page reveals very, very few legitimate authors (and if you've ever read The Night Circus, you can tell it was written in 30 days--maybe less) at legitimate presses--a lot of POD and micro presses. 

No, these are housewives and teenagers, helping themselves to a chunk of time at the beginning of the ultra-busy holiday season to demand This is MY time!!!  I'm a NOVELIST!

Let's face it, Jesse Pinkman
is just a teenage Shane Vendrell

I had two choices the other night after working 2 of my 5 jobs--write 2K in a book I honestly couldn't care less about, or watch Breaking Bad with my darling boyfriend, who I hadn't seen all day, and snuggle my kitten.  I chose Breaking Bad, and not just because Aaron Paul is the flavor of the week.

So I graded some papers and watched Breaking Bad.  Aaron Paul is a hottie.  And Ian was sweet, and Bosco was cuddly, and when I am on my deathbed, I doubt I'll be saying "I wish I'd spent more time in my office working."

It's admirable that NaNoWriMo people want to write.  I'm glad it's helping me get back in the daily routine.  Maybe it will remind me to update this blog a little more.  But in the end, you have to ask yourself why you're really doing it.  Is it to feel special, to accomplish something, to escape your miserable life?

Writing can be enjoyable.  It doesn't have to be a coffee-swilling, hair-pulling, cat-ignoring frenzy.  But a story needs more than 30 days to unfold.  I have an outline and I'm still discovering new things about my characters (like that the mother in this book is the same Virginia Davenport that protagonist Oren Barry fantasizes about in the other novel).  The "No Plot, No Problem!" slogan is a recipe for frustration and disaster.

Why only be a novelist in November?  Instead of chaining yourself to the desk while you could be eating cranberry sauce with your kids, why not write 1K a day over two months?  Or give yourself Sundays off and take a walk.  Don't give Chris Baty another moment of your precious time. 

Happy Birthday!

Happy 40th to Walton Goggins . . . and here is a present for all of you.  I already took the liberty of unwrapping it:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NanoWriMo Week 1

I'm three days in and at 4K . . . I'm doing 2000 words a night in about an hour and a half, and I haven't done Day 3 yet.  The novel is breezing along, thanks to the outline I meticulously constructed the week before.  That's the secret to NaNoWriMo.  Outlines.  Plan it down to the bone marrow and you'll never lack for something to write.

I'm almost enjoying it, actually.  Seeing my word count on the little graph each night, type-typing away, finally feeling good about writing again.  (Finally writing again, frankly.)  2K isn't an unattainable amount by any stretch of the imagination, it just requires some patience and the ability to say no to TV, no to kitten, no to friends dropping by for a few hours each day. It's only for a month, after all, and only for a few hours.  And besides, TV is mostly wasting time anyways.  Even if it's The Shield.