Monday, October 30, 2006

Blast from the past

Here's an entry from, oh, about a year and a half ago. Because I'm really trying to clear the dust out of this place, and because this is, I think, one of the better pieces of writing to show up on the blog. And because it's an example of a wonderful moment when something that was just supposed to be little more than a quick, dialogue-driven exchange, turned into something surprisingly profound. Enjoy.

"I should go," she said, looking at her watch.

Outside the sky was alight with an agry sunset. The clouds were on fire, bright vibrant, but only minutes from disappearing in the night sky.

"You won't," I said. "You're having too much fun."

"I have to work in the morning," she said, but the smile she hinted at told me that I was right.

"I do too."

"And you're not leaving?"

"I'm having too much fun," I said. "You're having too much fun. We're both having too much fun. We're having too much fun together. Why go someplace less fun to do something less fun?"

"I'm gonna regret it in the morning. So will you, I'm sure."

"I'm sure I will," I said, lifting my glass in a toast. "Regret when the time comes, but never before." I drank it quick -- a touch more than a mouthful -- and caught the waitress' eye. She smiled and nodded.

"Shouldn't we have learned our lesson by now? Why do we do this to ourselves? I'll be a mess tomorrow."

"And will it matter the next day that you were a mess the day before? Will it really make any difference three days, four days, a week later, if you're a little hung over tomorrow?"

"I'll be more than just a little hung over..."

"A month from now, will it matter if you're more than just a little hung over tomorrow? No. It won't. Whatever we do now, it doesn't really matter six hours from now. Sex hours from now will be six hours from now, and there will be dozens, hundreds of other things that will define that moment in time. It won't be this moment right here."

"So why bother with this if it's not going to matter six hours from now?"

"Because," I said, as the waitress set our drinks in front of us, "for right now, this is the most important thing in the world."

She takes her drink casually, without a thought. "That sounds awfully nice, but if you strip away all the pretty words all you're really saying is that you're here because you have nothing better to do."

"Why is that a bad thing? Shouldn't we always be doing the best thing that we could think of doing? Why should you feel lessened because I have nothing better to do, because spending time with you is the best thing I could possibly think of doing."

A hint of a smile showed again, but it only toyed at the corner of her lips. "Yes, you're right, that's nice. But how much of it is really that? And how much is it just not wanting to be alone?"

I thought about that. I wanted to tell her that it was all about who we spent time with, and not just spending time with whoever was handy. But I couldn't because I wasn't completely sure that was the truth.

"I don't mind being alone," I said. "Most times people are a hindrance. They're dumb and they're boring and they laugh at bad jokes, not because they're funny, but because they hear the sound of their laughter and are reminded that they're alive. Most times I'm better off without people. So most of the time I'm at home, in a house, with walls a and surfaces and structures, and there's no warmth, there's no blood surging through any of it. I can laugh at as many jokes as I want to, but not even the sound of my own laughter can really remind me that I'm alive. At times like that, it's not that I think I'd be better off dead. It's that I think it wouldn't make any difference if I was."

My words settled over the table, and we sat in silence for a few minutes, each of us nursing our drinks to give ourselves something to do in that midly awkward moment.

And then I said, "It's not so much that I mind being alone. It's just that I wish it wasn't so goddamn lonely."

"I'll drink to that," she said, and we did.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dusting off the cobwebs

I wish I could tell you that there was some breaking point in my faith. That there was some moment that opened my eyes, filled me with a sudden realization, convinced the believer to abandon his belief. I’m sure it’d be a lot more dramatic if there was.

I’ve certainly got enough moments to choose from.

The moment that Darren McAndrews and Stan Darrow lost their balance and fell off their precipice, the moment they released the full extent of their murderous rage on our Algebra classroom, the moment that bullets by the hundred began to tear apart chalkboards and textbooks and desks and flesh with equal ferocity, that moment could have been one of them.

But I’ll tell you this much in retrospect: God wasn’t anywhere to be found in that room. Not in the form of a divine being of pure love, intervening into man-made madness in an attempt to save his humble servants from pain and death. Not in any attempt to offer sympathy or compassion to the survivors and the dying alike, even as the events of the classroom remained out of his control. Not even as a perverted, giggling imp, sent into hysterics by the suffering of his creations.

No, there was nothing divine in that room on that October day. Just us simple, lowly, pathetic human beings – some of us terrified, some of us clinging to life as blood spilled out of holes in us that were never meant to be there, some of us creating those very holes with machines designed to make them.

We were alone in that room, and as we struggled for cover, behind toppled desks, under long tables, beneath a cluster of hard plastic chairs, we knew we were alone. We knew that whether we lived or died had nothing to do with any power in heaven., and almost as little to do with how well we hid ourselves. It was squarely in the hands of McAndrews and Darrow. The ones with the guns. They had the power to grant life and the power to condemn us to death. They had already taught us that lesson. Now it was final exam time.

Amongst the chaos, fetal behind my own desk, desperate to curl into a tighter and tighter ball, I remember thinking that I couldn’t stand to go through this alone. Clinging to life by a thread, only one stray bullet away from eternity, I felt the need to be near another human being more strongly than I’ve ever felt before. I didn’t take the time to wonder why then, and looking back on it since, I’m still not sure I know for sure. It wasn’t entirely terror, it wasn’t entirely that I was seeking comfort. If anything, it was that, in seeing the harsh truth of my own mortality, I needed a reminder that I actually existed, I needed to be seen through another set of eyes, I needed my life to be acknowledged by someone other than those who were seeking to take it away from me.

Visited the novel a few nights back, and struggled through about three pages worth. I need to visit a bit more often, because I am kind of drifting out of it a bit, I think, and I know it'll take about three or four more times sitting down with it before it really starts to flow again. This last night just felt like work.

Which is frustrating, because it was going so well when I started, so smoothly, so naturally, like it was the perfect book for a perfect time in my life, when any and everything I had to say was there, on the edge of my brain, waiting for the chance to be put down on paper.

Having to struggle with it now...yeah, frustrating.

That above-quoted bit is the better of what I did that night (taking place during one of the flash-backs to the high-school shooting back story, if some context is needed) but even while it's got some good bits in it, it does seem, as a whole, a bit rough. Not quite up to par with the other segments I've quoted here in the past.

Still, the blog's been pretty empty as of late, and I've been feeling like I've been needing to update with something. I have an entry that's sort of burbling in my head, looking for some sort of form. And I should finish my rundown of controversial movies at some point, I guess. But until either of those turn up, here's something to at lesat fill the space and dust a few of the cobwebs off.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Beginning at the end

So I just wrote the last scene of a new play. Which isn't to say that it's finished. Rather I simply wrote the last scene first, because it was important to me that I remember where I'm going with the story (what little story it can be said to have).

The play is called "Guts" almost entirely because of this line, from the final scene:

It’s a choice that takes guts. Which, ironically, is exactly where he was stabbed.

Which, hey, probably doesn't explain a whole lot out of context, but I don't feel like quoting the whole sort monologue, so that's all you're gonna get for now.

Having the title of a project this early is almost unheard of for me. It titles are usually the last thing I do, and often don't even show themselves until the second draft. But when the title -- and the corresponding line that justifies the title -- hit me with a one-two punch last night, I knew I had no choice but to use them. They were just too fantastic.

No, the novel's not abandoned, not yet at any rate. But it will likely remain on vacation for the next two weeks, until my commitment to Rocky Horror is finished, and I have freed up a bit more time. In the meantime, this play will give me a place to goof off for short creative periods, being composed of a bunch of a scenes likely no longer than three to five pages (I wrote about 3/4 of the first scene today too, with a pretty good idea of what's going on in scene two).

Longer excerpts to come, perhaps, at some point in the future. Or perhaps not. Depends on my mood, and the quality of the day's output.

EDIT: The "I just wrote" part isn't quite so accurate anymore, as this entry refused to post when I first wrote it. It's since been a few days.

Friday, October 20, 2006

New Toys

I haven't had much time to muck about with it, but I came across a nifty new (well, it's not *that* new, but it's new to me) site called LibraryThing. It's sort of a book collecting / cataloguing site, combined with a social network site like MySpace, as it allows you to find other users of the site with similar tastes in books.

Though there are other cataloguing programs available (and I've mucked with some in the past) there's something sort of cool about being able to maintain your collection online at a consistent web address. Makes it easier when someone says, "Hey, you got any good books?" You can just answer, "Here, check out my collection."

Which you can, in fact, do here.

It's a work in progress -- most of what's up there is just from memory, and even then mostly my more recent acquisitions. Still, it gives  a good feel for what the site can do.

Monday, October 16, 2006

It's not dead!

Well surprise, surprise, I actually dusted off the novel tonight, and spent some quality time with it. Which is nice, because I was beginning to think that it was going to die the painful, unfortunate death that so many of my unfinished projects have suffered.

Which is not say that it's necessarily free from suffering that death. But I have managed to buy it some time.

I fought and struggled with it for what felt like hours, sure that I had managed a frighteningly significant output. In the end, though, it was only three pgaes. Nothing to sneeze at, I guess, but hardly frighteningly significant.

On the bright side, finding my way into the narrator's voice after these many weeks spent idling, was surprisingly easy to do. And he's a blast to write, because he alternates between rambling, run-on sentences and short, abrupt, sentence fragments.

This book is going to be an editor's worst nightmare.

And I love that.

I'm feeling a bit like some of my more concrete plans and intentions for the book have started to slip awa in the time that I haven't been working on it, and that' I'll be sort of winging it again from here on in, but I'm still hoping that some of it will gradually come back to me. I know, pretty much, the remainder of this chapter, but it's pretty shaky after that...

Wait, it's coming back to me.

Wow, that was pretty cool, actually. While writing about where the book was going from here, I started to actually *think* about where the book was going from here. And, upon thinking about it, remembered where the book was going from here.

Who'd have thought that thinking would prove that beneficial?

I'm surely as shocked as you are.

In any case, three pages after weeks of a dry spell still seems pretty insignificant. While it's nice to know that, at the very least, the book isn't irrepairably broken, it'll still be awhile before I'm back in the flow of it again. But the ideas are still buzzing, and assuming I can find the time for it, I'm quite looking forward to finding that flow.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Criticizing the Controversy (Part Two)

A quick aside before we get into the next phase of this list. Obviously I've decided to split these up instead of posting them all as one great big, cumbersome analysis (and after seeing how long part one ended up being, I'm glad I made that choice), but I've decided to make one small modification to the way I'm splitting them.

Instead of the original plan -- with posts of 10, 10 and then 5, I'm going more closely follow Entertainment Weekly's breakdown, and go 10, 10, 4 and then 1, because I'm going to want to talk about the number one spot for a few reasons, but most importantly, why the number one pick shouldn't be, and why my alternative choice is so much better.

It's also worth noting that, obviously, I'm not adding any films to this list. That's not because EW's list should be taken as the final word on film controversy, but only because it's the list it'self that I'm criticizing, not attempting to make one of my own.

With those few details out of the way, let's press on to part two.

THE PLOT Riefenstahl's notorious documentary of the 1934 Nazi rally at Nuremberg elevates propaganda to seductive Wagnerian grandeur. THE CONTROVERSY While intellectuals still ponder the ethics of admiring so malevolent a masterpiece, others have had more visceral reactions. In the early '40s, director George Stevens was so disturbed by the film that he joined the Army the next day. Protests greeted Riefenstahl (who never shook her Nazi-tainted past) at a 1974 Telluride Film Festival tribute, and the Anti-Defamation League decried a 1975 screening in Atlanta as ''morally insensitive.''
THE COMMENTARY While I certainly won't debate that a documentary on a Nazi rally would -- and yes, probably should -- be controversial, I would argue that it's likely an important documentation of a piece of history that maybe we, as human beings, aren't terribly proud of, but which should be remembered at all costs. For that reason alone, this is a film that should be preserved (though it's worth noting that I say that about this film, sight unseen)

14. THE WARRIORS (1979)
THE PLOT Members of a street gang battle their way through a New York City populated by rival gangs (''Warriors, come out to plaaay!'').
THE CONTROVERSY Hill's lurid nightmare of urban warfare was widely condemned for glorifying violence. Reports of criminal incidents where the film was shown — including the stabbing of a teenager in Massachusetts — fueled the outrage, forcing Paramount to temporarily pull its print and TV advertising for the film.
THE COMMENTARY Haven't seen this one either, though I do have vague memories of seeing promotional images from it. I was likely too young to have spotted ads in newspapers when it was originally released, so it was likely on video box-covers in later years. None of which has anything to do with the supposed controversy of the film. Just interesting trivia. So let me say this: Movies don't make people criminals. They just give people with criminal tendencies specific ideas they maybe wouldn't have otherwise had.

13. THE DA VINCI CODE (2006)
THE PLOT A professor (Tom Hanks) unearths a 2,000-year-old conspiracy to cover up the marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
THE CONTROVERSY It didn't end up drawing mass pickets or boycotts, but there was much debate while the film was being made. Westminster Abbey wouldn't allow Howard to shoot inside its halls, and some 200 protesters mobbed the set in Lincolnshire, England (although Howard says most were merely ''trying to get autographs'').
THE COMMENTARY Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Wait, seriously? Okay, it's a crappy movie, a crappy adaptation of a bestselling book, whose author ripped the whole idea off from a book originally published, I think, in the 70s. The only real controversy here is how sad the book-buying public is to have shot this thing up the best-seller lists.

12. THE DEER HUNTER (1978)
THE PLOT The Vietnam War shatters the lives of three Pennsylvania steel-mill workers.
THE CONTROVERSY By the time it won the Best Picture Oscar, Deer Hunter had ignited major debate over its shocking POW-camp scenes, in which American soldiers are forced to play Russian roulette. War historians argued there was no record of such atrocities, and others called the Vietcong depiction racist. Cimino called the criticisms ''beside the point.''
THE COMMENTARY The Cimino quote that EW uses gives the director the appearance of being dismissive of the criticisms, while managing to avoid the point of the quote -- that he was not attempting to make a factual film about the Vietnam war. To me, the Russian roulette sequences could be seen as a metaphor for the terror, the randomness, and ultimately the senselessness of war in general. It's probably also worth noting that I think this a fantastic film.

11. THE MESSAGE (1977)
THE PLOT Anthony Quinn plays Mohammed's uncle in an epic telling of Islam's origins.
THE CONTROVERSY The movie rankled Muslims and sparked riots, and that was just during production. Post-release, in March 1977, Hanafi terrorists took more than 100 people hostage in Washington, D.C. — killing a reporter and shooting the city's future mayor Marion Barry in the two-day siege — demanding in part that The Message be banned. (It wasn't.) In a cruelly ironic coda, the Syrian-born Akkad died amid al-Qaeda's coordinated hotel bombings last fall in Amman, Jordan.
THE COMMENTARY This is an interesting choice, is it goes against expectations by including non-American controversy, and for that I'll tip my hat to EW. If your film inspires a hostage-taking, there's pretty much no arguing that there was some controversy surrounding it.

10. BABY DOLL (1956)
THE PLOT A Mississippi cotton-gin owner (Eli Wallach) humiliates a competitor (Karl Malden) by attempting to seduce the man's still-virgin wife (Carroll Baker).
THE CONTROVERSY Written by Tennessee Williams, the film struck Catholic leaders as lewd. (A similar flap greeted 1943's The Outlaw over Jane Russell's bust.) New York's Cardinal Spellman forbade the faithful to see it ''under pain of sin.'' Some theaters pulled it, but it eventually earned four Oscar nominations.
THE COMMENTARY You know, if nothing else, this makes an interesting list of films I may not have heard before that might be worth checking out. Cardinal Something-or-other tells his good Catholics to avoid it, even though they all know they can check the film out and then go to confession the next day. Controversy level? Lukewarm at best.

THE PLOT A disaffected American (Marlon Brando) travels to Paris, where he throws himself into an affair with a young Frenchwoman (Maria Schneider).
THE CONTROVERSY Critics and audiences were sharply divided over this X-rated erotic psychodrama. The film's stark (as in naked) depiction of loveless, animalistic carnality horrified some — and landed its director and stars in an Italian court on obscenity charges.
THE COMMENTARY Of course this would make the list, though likely on because it was Marlon Brando in the role (if it had been a random B-list actor, or a native Italian, it would have likely been long forgotten by now). Having not seen it, I'm unsure if the fact that people are still talking about it is a testament to the strength of the film, or just that people like complaining.

THE PLOT Homicidal lovers (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) cut a blood-soaked swath through America.
THE CONTROVERSY Though intended as a satire on the media, the film actually inspired several copycat killers to seek their own 15 minutes of fame, some even using imagery and dialogue from the film. Over 12 murders in the U.S. and abroad have been linked to Killers. One victim's family tried to sue Stone and Warner Bros.
THE COMMENTARY Another film I'll defend, though not to quite the same degree as The Deer Hunter. While I am a fan (and the Director's Cut sits proudly on my DVD shelf), I do think the satirical elements may have been hidden a little too well underneath the carnage. You really do have to spend a fair amount of time with the film, peeling away at its layers, to get at the core. I still think it's a core worth getting to, but the process could have been made a little easier.

THE PLOT Griffith's epic follows the travails of two families during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
THE CONTROVERSY The film's depiction of African Americans as childlike, conniving, or rabid sex fiends, and the Ku Klux Klan as heroic saviors, sparked nationwide protests by the nascent NAACP. (It also became a KKK recruiting tool.) Censorship debates and protests have dogged the film in subsequent rereleases and when it was added to the National Film Registry in 1993.
THE COMMENTARY It does seem a little odd that this film didn't crack the top 5, given both its historical significance, as well as its well-publiciized racism. Another one I haven't seen, though I'd quite like to, only because of its significance as a part of film history.

THE PLOT Jesus (Willem Dafoe) pursues his calling but, in a Satan-induced hallucination, dreams of a normal life that includes sex with Mary Magdalene.
THE CONTROVERSY Religious fundamentalists picketed and threatened boycotts weeks before its release. One group offered to buy the $6.5 million film from Universal to destroy it; some theaters, and later Blockbuster, refused to carry it. Oh, and the French rioted.
THE COMMENTARY Another one that should have at least cracked the top 10. And then some. This film should have topped the list, and I'll tell you why. But not right now.


And that brings Part Two of Criticizing the Controversy to a close. Two more installments still to come, including the exciting discussion of what's wrong with the number one spot. Look for it within the next few days.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Criticizing the controversy (Part One)

A few months ago, Entertainment Weekly published a list of the 25 most controversial films of all time -- and interesting list, to be sure, but with some odd choices that got the gears in my head rolling. And when I saw their number one choice (when it seemed completely clear to me what the number one choice SHOULD have been) I knew had to comment on it.

But I just didn't get around to it.

But because I haven't done any significan writing in the last week or so, I am feeling a burning urge to write SOMETHING, and so I pick this idea out of the discarded-idea-bin, and dust it off, and see if I can breathe some life into it. Because the wheels are still rolling, and there's still a desire for commentary.

I've decided to quote EW's article, instead of actually just linking to it (which, in the interest of fair use, I'll do here anyway) because it's just easier than expecting everyone to keep two documents open at once, right? Right.

25. ALADDIN (1992)
THE PLOT You know: the genie-in-the-lamp tale.
THE CONTROVERSY The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee balked at a lyric describing the film's Arabian setting as a land ''where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face.'' Result? The studio dubbed out the lyric for subsequent releases.
THE COMMENTARY Seems likely that they were desperate for something to fill out the 25th slot by including this one, though I suppose the fact that it came from Disney just amp up the controversy factor just a touch. How could the home of Mickey Mouse and Cinderella be the source of such a racial insensitive comment!? Perish the thought!

24. CALIGULA (1980)
THE PLOT This lavishly decadent film depicts the orgy-filled life and death of ancient Rome's most notorious — and clearly psychotic — emperor (Malcolm McDowell).
THE CONTROVERSY Described as a ''moral holocaust'' by Variety, the film was first given a very limited theatrical release for fear of prosecution on obscenity grounds.
THE COMMENTARY What is pretty much the first (and one of very few) big-budget, mainstreamish attempts at pornography, yeah, this was pretty much a given on this list. I've never seen it, but a part of me has been curious, if only to watch what I'm sure, even at the time it was being filmed, was a sort of cinematic train wreck. Because, seriously, there's no way this could have gone well.

23. KIDS (1995)
THE PLOT A group of teens (played by, among others, Rosario Dawson and Chloë Sevigny) prowl the streets of NYC in search of sex, booze, drugs, and other high-risk kicks.
THE CONTROVERSY Clark's disturbing vision of promiscuous, borderline-sociopathic teens was heralded by some as a much-needed wake-up call about the nation's youth. Others saw prurient exploitation. As a buffer against the furor, Miramax created a new entity, Excalibur Films, to release the pic.
THE COMMENTARY "Others saw prurient exploitation." Um, which others are we talking about? Mormons? Neo-nazis? It's important to know, before we decide whether we're going to give their opinion any credence. And really, in the post-Britney-Spears world of the oversexualized teen, it seems to me that maybe this sort of "Wake-Up Call" is more than just necessary. The idea that, as a culture, we're actually breeding pedophiles is sort of disconcerting.

THE PLOT Racial tensions in a Brooklyn neighborhood escalate from amusing to tragic during the course of a single scorching summer day.
THE CONTROVERSY While the film was seen by some as a masterpiece (and earned Lee a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nom), others blasted the director as irresponsible, predicting that the film's shocking climax — in which Mookie (Lee) hurls a trashcan through a storefront window, inciting a riot — would evoke similar reactions from urban moviegoers. Thankfully, the film proved to be more of a catalyst for heated debate than a flashpoint for actual violence.
THE COMMENTARY It was controversial because what people feared might happen, didn't? I think that alone should drop this one a few notches. Maybe place it just above Aladdin.

THE PLOT Faye Dunaway is Bonnie, a bored Texas girl looking for danger. Warren Beatty is Clyde, a pistol-packing ex-con. They fall in love and kick off an infamous Depression-era crime spree.
THE CONTROVERSY Two years before Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, Penn's bloody, slo-mo bullet-riddled finale, where the young lovers bite the dust, sparked an outcry — even tough-guy actor James Garner, no stranger to shoot-outs, called it ''amoral.''
THE COMMENTARY This, I must confess, I haven't seen, in spite of knowing that I should, if only because of it's place in film history, for being a violent, bloody, and, yes, ultimately controversial film.

THE PLOT This nauseatingly graphic Italian prototype for The Blair Witch Project follows four documentarians filming cannibal tribes in the Amazon. They become lunch.
THE CONTROVERSY After its 1980 Milan premiere, the film's print was confiscated by the city's magistrate. Later, Deodato faced life in prison when Italian authorities believed the stars of his film were really killed. The actors finally appeared on TV to prove otherwise.
THE COMMENTARY Now THAT is a controversy. The print being confiscated? The filmmaker in prison? Holy crap, why hasn't an American film company used that sort of thing is a viral marketing campaign? It's brilliant?

THE PLOT A trigger-happy detective (Michael Douglas) falls for a bisexual author (Sharon Stone) who's suspected of murdering her male lover with an ice pick.
THE CONTROVERSY Gay-rights activists objected to the portrayal of man-hating lesbians before a frame of film was shot and protested through the film's opening. Then there was the film's eye-popping sex, including Sharon Stone's notorious leg-crossing, which contributed to Basic's initial NC-17 rating.
THE COMMENTARY I love people who criticize something before they've seen it, going simply on speculation and rumour. Because we all know how accurate that sort of information is. Which isn't to say that Basic Instinct is a film that should be defended as some sort of great crusader in the fight for film freedom, or whatever. It's just a crappy murder-mystery. With, you know, a Sharon Stone crotch-shot.

18. I AM CURIOUS (YELLOW) (1969)
THE PLOT Freewheeling Lena experiences the swinging '60s: protesting Vietnam, questioning the class system, and exploring carnal desires.
THE CONTROVERSY Before the 1967 Swedish film could open in the U.S., it was seized by customs officials concerned that scenes containing full frontal nudity and simulated sex acts were pornographic. The courts initially deemed the movie obscene, but the verdict was overturned.
THE COMMENTARY "The courts initially" blah blah blah. Unless there are actual, you know, paying, movie-going, people involved, it's not much of a controversy, if you ask me. The government getting their panties in a knot does not a controversy make.

17. FREAKS (1932)
THE PLOT For his still-creepy circus noir about a midget who's conned by a greedy temptress, Browning used real sideshow performers.
THE CONTROVERSY Audiences fled preview screenings in droves. (One patron claimed the film caused her to miscarry.) Even with a castration scene cut, the National Association of Women found the film ''offensive'' and urged boycotts. It was banned in Atlanta and pulled from distribution; it was forbidden in the U.K. until the early '60s.
THE COMMENTARY This is one that I've wanted to see for *years* and still have yet to. As a controversial film, could you ask for any more than someone claiming that they MISCARRIED because of your movie? No, I don't think so.

16. UNITED 93 (2006)
THE PLOT An ultra-vérité re-creation of the tragic heroism surrounding — and inside — the only hijacked 9/11 flight not to reach its intended target.
THE CONTROVERSY Greengrass' virtually-there experience may have been a little too close for comfort for some moviegoers. Even the trailer's suggestion of the movie's content prompted audiences to shout Too soon! One New York City theater pulled the footage from its preview reel after many viewers (one left sobbing) complained.
THE COMMENTARY This I haven't seen. And while I am slightly tempted because of it's inclusion on this list, I'm pretty sure the film is just going to be a big rah-rah masturbation session about how awesome America is that really doesn't manage to see 9/11 in any large or significant or, really, accurate sense. So no thanks.

And that's episode one of criticizing the controversy. I'm kind of getting into this, and would love to keep going, but it's late, and I have to go to bed, so I won't. More to come soon, though. Or not. Hard to tell.

I am so freaking tired.

I haven't touched the novel in a little over a week. I'm desperate to get back to it, but I'm having a tough time seeing any free time for it in the near future. Thankfully it doesn't FEEL like I'm losing ground on it, which is good.

There's been a long planned blog post (a commentary on a somewhat recent Entertainment Weekly article on the 25 most controversial films of all time) that I think I'm going to start work on tonight. I haven't decided yet whether I'm gonna write it all up and do a massive single post, or split it into three (10, 10 and 5), but I'm currently leaning towards the split. Except if I do that, there's no guarantee I'll actually finish it. Which is always a risk. Moreso when I'm as drowned in extracurrics as I am right now.

If I *do* go with a split, the first post should probably appear a bit after this one. So for those of you obsessively visiting this blog (ha!) just be patient. There might be something new (and maybe even interesting) shortly.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Oh, I think I feel a rant coming on...

So I'm going to try to not let it out of my system here. Because that'd be flushing a perfectly good column down the tubes.

But I *am* feeling a solid, angry, teeth-grinding kind of rant coming over me. And it's aimed at a 50-ish British children's novelist named Geraldine McCaughrean. Here's a quick bit of bio courtesy of Wikipedia.

Geraldine McCaughrean (pronounced "Mc-cork-ran")¹ is a British children's novelist. She was born on June 6, 1951 in North London, and took an education degree, then worked in magazine publishing for ten years before becoming a full-time writer. She now lives in Berkshire with her husband John and daughter Ailsa.

She has written more than 130 books, and won numerous prizes.

Okay, first:

If you've written more than 130 books, and you're not 75 years old, you're not trying hard enough. That they're children's books isn't any fucking excuse for writing them fast. Put your head in the adult world for awhile. Tackle some difficult topics. I don't think that everything you output needs to be a contender for the Pulitzer Prize, but anything more than two books a year is a serious indicator that you really don't give a damn.

And second: If you really don't give a damn, then you should not be comissioned to write a sequel to a classic story like Peter Pan.

And third: If you are commissioned to write a sequel to Peter Pan, and you do give a damn, you should turn that job the fuck down, immediately, without a second's hesitation. Because it's a story that is not only beloved by generations upon generations of people, it is a story that is likely beloved by its creator. And that creator is likely spinning in his grave right now, because it meant something to him, it was a story he cared about, and to you, well hell, it wasn't much more than a paycheque, was it? I mean, who cares about history? Who cares about respect? Who cares about letting someone's work stand alone as their work?

But then, if you're pumping out more than two books a year, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the paycheque is all you care about, should I?

And yeah, damn it, a good chunk of this rant is probably going to end up in the column too. Because it came out on the blog better than I thought it would.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hey, lets stop shooting each other, okay?

From an Associated Press Article, listing a history of U.S. school shootings:

• Oct. 2, 2006: A gunman took about a dozen girls hostage, killing at least three of them, at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, police said. The shooter was among the dead, and a number of people were injured.

• Sept. 29, 2006: 15-year-old Eric Hainstock brought two guns to a school in rural Cazenovia, Wis., and fatally shot the principal, a day after the principal gave him a disciplinary warning for having tobacco on school grounds, police said.

• Sept. 27, 2006: Duane Morrison, 53, took six girls hostage at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo. Morrison, sexually assaulting them and using them as human shields for hours before fatally shooting one girl and killing himself.

• Aug. 24, 2006: Christopher Williams, 27, went to an elementary school in Essex, Vermont, looking for his ex-girlfriend, a teacher. He couldn't find her and fatally shot one teacher and wounded another, police said. Williams also killed his ex-girlfriend's mother, according to authorities. He shot himself twice in the head after the rampage and was arrested.

The article, focusing on the U.S., doesn't include the recent Montreal school shooting, so if we include that in the last, that's five in North America since August.

And I'm thinking, holy crap, do I feel morbid right now.

Only the August shooting had taken place when I started working on this new novel, which uses high school violence as a fairly prominant sub-plot, and I don't even recall hearing about that one until just now. High school violence just worked for the story, and it was a topic that had been in the back of my mind for the last few years anyway, a topic I was eager to spend some time on.

But now -- what the heck is wrong with 2006 that, suddenly, this is the year that everyone wants to blow each other to pieces at school? Are these all copycat crimes, or have we as a culture reached some sort of terrible boiling point?

And, really, how weird is it that this topic shows up in my head, and ends up poured out into a novel, during a year when high school violence suddenly leaps out of control.

What sort of bizarre collective unconscious have I stumbled upon?

And do I want to be a part of that collective any longer than absolutely necessary?

EDIT: After some additional thought, I'm reminded that a bit less than a year after my attempt at writing a novel called "The Small Town Pornographer's Blues" (which was to be about the struggles of an entrepreneur attempting to break into the porn film business in a small town) someone in this area started advertising in the classifieds, looking for both actors and cameramen to work on adult films locally.

I'm not trying to imply that I'm psychic or anything. Nonetheless...creepier and creepier.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Speaking of McDonald's...

Another random childhood memoy just came to me.

I have this vague recollection of my folks having a book which was, essentially, a combination McDonald's History, as well as a McDonald's travel guide (specifically, the locations of every McDonalds in Canada and, I think, the United States). I remember trying to read it again and again and again, because I figured this book must somehow be as wonderful as the restaurant, but I simply couldn't push my way through the dry prose detailing the rise of the franchise.

Coinciding with this memory is the realization that my parents, when planning our vacation itinerary, must've made every effort possible to ensure that there would be sufficient McDonald's stops along the way, to keep us kids satisfied (and coated in a glistening sheen of grease).

I'd be totally creeped by a similar sort of marketing move if I encountered it today, but as a memory, it still manages a warm place in my heart.

RIP, hot mustard

I don't believe I spend any more or less than time than average thinking about food on any given day (though I've met people who do), so it seems strange to me that some of my fondest childhood memories are memories in which food play a central role.

For example:

I remember one morning, as a child, after spending the night at a friend's place, going for breakfast at a local diner with the friend and his dad. Now, his dad was a bit more willing to indulge the psychotic whims of children than my own folks had been, and so, on this particular morning, he allowed me to fulfill one of my greatest childhood wishes -- having a cheeseburger for breakfast.

Cheeseburgers, for whatever reason, had reached an almost mythical status in my young head, and were the greatest treat that could be bestowed upon you for a meal. I had spent months, perhaps even years trying to convince my parents to let me eat a cheeseburger when we were out for breakfast, but they refused, time and time again.

So of course, I was expecting absolute bliss from dining on a cheeseburger at 10:00 a.m. Instead, I just got sort of nautious.

Another memory:

Our family didn't eat at McDonald's with any sort of regularity, and so when we did go, it was something to celebrate. You wanted to make an event out of it. Not long after the initial launch of McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, they became my meal of choice when visiting McDonald's. And of course, as my meal of choice, there was the Holy Grail of Chicken McNuggets.

The 20-piece meal.

Much like the breakfast cheeseburger, all my requests for a 20-piece meal were refuesed by my parents for what felt like years (though it was probably only a handful of months -- childhood memory is funny that way) before they finally got tired of hearing my complaints and relented.

And what should have been a glorious moment of joy became, much like the breakfast cheeseburger incident, a moment of overconsumption and nausea.

The moral of the story: When parents say, "No," it isn't always because they're mean. Sometimes it's because they don't want you to throw up all over yourself, and them, and the nice people at the table next to you. Which isn't to say that I did, but I could have. You never know with food related things.

Which brings me, in a very offhand way, to the real point of this post.

McDonald's Hot Mustard sauce, for their Chicken McNuggets, is, apparently, no more.

According to the woman who took my order yesterday, McDonald's took a survey and discovered that more people preferred the Honey  Mustard to the Hot Mustard, so the Hot Mustard was removed as an option.

And to those people who took that survey, and who inspired McDonald's to remove the Hot Mustard sauce from their menu, I want to say simply this: I hate you all.

Hot Mustard is all I've ever had on my McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, all I've ever wanted to have on my Chicken McNuggets. Now, in my adulthood, it has less to do with the taste -- though I still enjoyed that the last time I was lucky enough to have the hot mustard sauce -- and more to do with nostalgia. With reconnecting with the simpler times of your childhood.

And you people, you stupid Honey Mustard people, have destroyed all that.

Today we mourn the passing of Hot Mustard from the McDonald's menu, and while we hold no grudges against this newer, less nostalgic "Honey Mustard" -- for it is innocent of any food related crime, and is simply the unlikely replacement for a fondly remembered product -- we acknowledge that McDonald's will never be the same. And that I will likely never eat their Chicken McNuggets again.

Goodbye, dear, Hot Mustard. You will be missed.