Wednesday, April 25, 2012

If Justified knew what was good for them, they'd use Justin Towne Earle's "Mama Said" as an ending montage of Boyd Crowder doing stuff.  Anything, really.  Drinking bourbon, unbuttoning his shirt (seriously, he needs to stop buttoning that top button, it's driving me nuts), driving his truck, turning around, showering in slow motion . . . it's sort of all-purpose.  It's got a fitting melody, perfect lyrics and the exact right melody for a story that takes place in backwoods Kentucky. And the way he says, "I used to drink, boys, I used to cuss," sounds exactly like something Boyd Crowder would say and exactly how he'd say it.  He'd even do that little thing where he nods his head just slightly to the side, closes his eyes and smiles just a little.  God, I love it when he does that.

Of course, if Justified knew what was good for them, they would have reduced Raylan to almost nothing and put the focus on the crime families of Harlan, because the Bennett clan, Dickie Crow (such a great name that I wish I'd thought of it) and the Crowders are a hell of a lot more interesting than him and stupid boring Winonia could ever dream of being.

A Crisis of Voice

Back when I wrote crime, my voice came easily.  Starting with "Hero Cop," I just did my best Frank Miller impersonation.  Over time that evolved into the complicated dialect of Crimson City Blues, which even had it's own thesaurus that Dwight and I lovingly compiled over late-night trips to The Spot and bottles of red wine on the dirty grey couch of my basement apartment.  We had a dozen synonyms each for the two words that appeared most: drinking/drunk ("slung low" was my favorite; it appears in "Roderick and the Kid") and prostitute ("Pink Pants," "Lap Girl").  It was fun.

(Damn it, I miss Dwight.  That guy could write a sentence that could give you a hard-on.  He had this wonderfully cold style, like feeling breath on the back of your neck when you swear to Christ you're all alone.  It was a thing of brutal beauty and if his story "Bad Cop"--which absolutely killed me to take out of Crimson City Blues when we split--ever comes out as a book, I'll be first in line to buy a hardcover copy even though I doubt he'll sign it)

Point is, every phrase in that book was carved out of marble.  If you go back and read the whole series, you'll notice how precise every word is.  I read it now and I cannot believe I wrote some of that.

I can't do that anymore and it's giving me a complex.

I'm going to blame grad school.  I had some great mentors and workshop leaders who encouraged me to better develop my unique style, but a few of them attempted to homogenized my voice.  One objected to my snarky, bittersweet style, saying that all I did was "shit all over people" (hey, it worked for Tucker Max, who I hate but who made a lot of money with that style) another fussed over my use of the word "addiction" as though he alone owned and defined the word.  I haven't completed a piece of CNF (that wasn't a blog post) since.  And while both of them had valid points that I took to heart so much it crippled me, one has to wonder if it's a mentor's place to completely shut down a style they personally object to for the so-called "betterment" of the student.

It's tough to say what will sell and what won't, and I'm completely against the "cheerleader" style of mentoring--after all, I didn't pay $25 large to have someone smile at me and tell me I'm great.  I have a mother, thank you.  But I think a good mentor should be able to help you develop your voice, as it's on the page, without interjecting their personality into it.

As for my fiction, I feel like it's all just a bunch of words on a page.  Phrases feel like I've written them a million times, and when I read Raymond Chandler or Tom Perrotta or Lauren Groff I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how the hell they do it.  How do they craft these phrases, like glass birds?  (Lovingly and over five years, I imagine).  Even when I get work back from my writing partner, I can look at his work and say, "yep, that's his."  It's as though he invented the sentence for his own personal use.  Mine just sort of lay there, like dead fish.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Today is 4/20.  That means that if you're a pot smoker, you can smoke pot, which you probably did yesterday and will probably do tomorrow, so good for you . . . ?  It's not like on April 20th it's suddenly legal to smoke pot, so why is everyone cackling like they're suddenly doing something so naughty?

I have never and will never smoke pot.  Why? Well, one, because I'm allergic to smoke, and two, because of the horror I've recently witnessed.  Today, walking barefoot down the street, I saw a shirtless dude with filthy white guy dreads, a string belt holding up dirty khaki shorts, playing his acoustic guitar for all to hear.  And you just know he had a hacky-sack in one of those cargo pockets.

This, my fellow Americans, is why marijuana needs to stay illegal forever.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Today's Playlist

-"Bad Liver and a Broken Heart" Tom Waits ("He's a lawyer/he ain't the one for ya")
-"Cure Kit" JaR ("Her stuff in boxes/out in the hall/I'll cut the phone lines/in case she calls")
-"Jackass" ("If you knew me/like I know myself/you'd hate me like/I hate myself")
-"(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" R.E.M ("It's not as though I really need you/if you were here I'd only leave you")
-"Genius" Warren Zevon ("Your protege don't care about art/I'm the one who always told you you were smart")
-"Nobody's Baby Now" Nick Cave ("These are her many letters/torn to pieces by long fingered hands")
-"My Winding Wheel" Ryan Adams ("Wear it out tonight/for anyone you think could outdo me")
-"King of Wishful Thinking" Go West ("I don't want to let you see/that you have made a hole in my heart")
-"Rubber Ring" The Smiths ("And when you're dancing/and laughing and finally living/hear my voice in our head and think of me kindly")
-"Cut Here" The Cure ("I miss you/I miss you/I miss you/so much")

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tonight I made the Liz Lemon decision of all Liz Lemon decisions.  I had a choice between writing a story I'm almost finished with and extremely happy about, eating pizza and watching Justified . . .

 . . . and I chose pizza.

Podcasting, not podracing

Several months ago my very good friend Eeon asked me if I would like to join him and our very good friend Pete in podcasting on Cutthroat Island over at Canned Laser.  I was confused, because their first podcast was of Robocop, which is a good movie, and Cutthroat Island is, well, a bad movie.  But of course I agreed, because I knew it was going to be a chance to talk about movies with Eeon and Pete, who are pretty much my own personal Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy.  Eeon is one of my favorite people in the entire world; he has a wonderful Midwestern sense of humor and tends to take jokes to absurd levels.  No one makes me laugh harder.

Pete, on the other hand, graduated before I got to Binghamton University and was therefor only known to me in myth and legend.  I seem to remember him being about seven feet tall. We reunited at Eeon's wedding and I was surprised that he remembered me, because I did not recognize him in a tuxedo and of mere mortal size. I have since found him to be a phenomenal storyteller, the familiar legends each time taking on a slightly more mythic quality each time they are retold.

So in mid December 2011, I went down to Eeon's house, where he and his wonderful wife Bridget gave me a leopard print snuggie to sleep under and let me drink their expensive whole-leaf tea. I don't think it's possible to love and respect Bridget anymore than I already do, after all, she allowed me to give the speech from Independence Day at her wedding, whereas most brides in my social circle seat me somewhere between the kid's table and the kitchen as punishment for daring to speak to their husbands with my brazen, hussy propositions of "hey, want to come over and watch Cowboy Bebop and eat a jumbo bag Ranch Doritoes?"

I didn't realize that podcasting about a movie would require us to watch the movie, let alone twice.  I hadn't seen Cutthroat Island since college and despite my teenage love for it, found this part to be excruciating. We riffed.  We made notes on yellow legal paper.  I quoted along with the film, astonished at my own geekiness.  I was having trouble remembering the name of the diner Eeon and I had lunch at earlier that afternoon, but I could remember whole chunks of dialogue from a film I hadn't seen in five years.

By now, it was nearly 11 p.m.  Bridget had gone to bed, and Pete was just setting up the recording equipment.  The first take started around midnight.  We talked for about 45 minutes.  We did a second take around 1 a.m.  When you listen to the podcast, you start to hear where we're getting punchy and silly, where our words slur together and we trip over our phrases.  Those are from that take.

At around 2 a.m, we finished and went to bed.  Because Pete was staying over too, I had to surrender the couch, (but not the Snuggie) and slept on the loveseat with my knees drawn up.  Around 3a.m, I heard audio and wondered if I'd fallen asleep in the middle of recording.  Nope, it was just Pete.  I asked him what the hell he was doing.  Editing, I guess.  I fell back asleep with my own voice echoing back at me.

I have a bleary memory of Bridget leaving.  I was glad when she came back, because she brought back bagels.  We all ate like zombies.  She went to the movies and we three, still in our pajamas, watched the rifftrax of The Star Wars Holiday Special, too exhausted to do anything but lie there and take it.  If the rifftrax had stopped dead, we would have just kept watching.  That's how tired we were.

And if I had the chance, I'd do it a hundred times more.  It was a great experience, talking film with two people who love movies and make me laugh, even at 2am when I am punchy and tired.  Hope you all enjoy listening to the podcast as much as I enjoyed recording it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Greatest Thing Ever Might Happen

Jeff Goldblum might be on Justified.

Yes, I know I complain all the time about the lazy writing, poor character development and general lack of Goggins nudity on Justified.  What can I say?  I hate the show.

But Goldblum, yes, sweet Goldblum!  It's as though my 13 year old self and my 28 year old self are giving each other a high-five . . . of course, the last time this happened, we got Cowboys and Aliens, but, as every season of Justified begins, I am filled with hope that maybe this time it will finally get good and stop being stupid.  Maybe they'll finally take my suggestion of getting rid of Raylan and just letting the criminals of Harlan County trick and manipulate and kill each other.

Probably not, but at least it will give me extra hotness to look at.  

Star Wars is Officially Stupid

I've been engaged in an ongoing battle with my Star Wars fandom for the better part of a year, and before that, when Harry Plinkett helped me figure out why The Phantom Menace was so, so terrible.

(Quick side story--my friend Dave, whose wife Rachel was in The Odd Couple with me and who are two of our favorite people to hang out with because they laugh easily, explained Plinkett's review to his eight year old daughter by saying she could watch it when "she (is) older and George Lucas was dead.")

And while I recently decided that Back to the Future is the superior trilogy, I still get a little wistful for my Star Wars geekdom.  I want to make an Endor terrarium or Wookie Cookies.

Not anymore.

Not with the release of the Star Wars game for Kinect.  Especially not the part where Han Solo Dances.  You see, the last time I checked, Han Solo wasn't on Dancing With The C-List Actors You Hate. (I don't mean David Arquette when I say this--everyone knows he's a triple Z-list actor who was a has-been by Arizona's definition of when life begins). And worse,  they rewrote awful pop songs so that they had Star Wars lyrics.  My sister Hilary did that when she was eight. Her rendition of "Obi Wan Kenobi" (to the tune of Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee") still makes me laugh when I think about it, but you don't see me putting it up as a dance remix.

A lot of people my age are prequel defenders.  They sit there and they try to tell me that George Lucas would never do anything to hurt them.  They insist that he wrote them as one big mythology and that he knows what he's doing.  And yet here we all are, dancing like goons in front of our TV to "Hologram Girl" (sung to Gwen Steffani's abomination "Hollaback Girl").  And because we are perpetual children fed fat on irony and quirk, believing that our helicopter parents will take care of everything while outwardly voicing that we don't trust the government or our teachers or anyone else.  Lucas is just another extension of the helicopter parent, assuring us that all is well, goodnight.  It would never occur to us to believe that the childhood he created for us was made solely out of greed.  The mean nasty black president is out to take our guns and force us to have partial  abortions performed by Muslim doctors, but George Lucas selling us out?  Never.

New flash: George Lucas is a dick.  If this doesn't prove that he is money-grubbing clown shoes, I don't know what will.  Look, I don't take Star Wars as some sort of great generational mythology.  It was a good space movie, and Han Solo was my first love . . . but I take it with the seriousness I take any story--I expect it to be told in an even tone.  There is nothing in Han Solo's character than indicates he would bust a move.  Lando, maybe, but not Han freakin' solo.  Leave the dance routine to Oola.

So Star Wars is sort of dead to me now.  I can't be that fan who thinks that this is cool and will happily eat whatever shit George Lucas shoves into my face. At least the Back to the Future game stayed within the relative realm of the story.

Friday, April 6, 2012

How To Know You're Totally Over A Breakup

I was listening to "Mr. Wrong" by Cracker, previously off the 2nd mix CD Dwight gave me, titled She Doesn't Think My Tractor's Sexy Anymore (poor Renee Zellwegger) and I realized that it no longer reminds me of Dwight.

Instead, I picture Dennis "Beeper King" Duffy from 30 Rock.