vocab query of the day, brought to you by the getcrafty forums: “stick your face in the hole so we can take your picture thingies” like this are called tintamareski in finnish. is there an elegant and/or brief term for them in english?

giant (++1/2). in the intro to the just-released dvd, director george stevens defends his crew for taking three years to finish the movie because of the many man hours that filmgoers have spent enjoying it since 1956. man hours indeed, as we were exhausted after watching the thing. i’m not sure the running time could be helped, as giant addresses – along with a jillion other issues – racism, sexism, alcoholism, consumerism, texans’ relationship with mexicans, vietnam, and the disappearance of the frontier. my beef is with the editors’ shocking lack of narrative intuition: though liz taylor’s marriage to rock hudson is a central theme, we leap straight from their first (snarky) meeting in maryland to a newlywed bedroom scene en route to the ranch. a peripheral soldier’s funeral, on the other hand, lasts five minutes, most of which are extended shots of a mexican boys’ choir. liz taylor’s journey through the decades is evidenced mostly in the color of her hair, while james dean playing a fiftysomething at 23 (the movie wrapped three weeks before he was killed) manages to look like sean penn twenty years from now. all in all, exhausting but diverting.

per pica's suggestion, the music / book meme, hollywoodland edition (it was bound to happen):

number of films i see in a year: on average, about 40. since i hate new york movie theaters (the ziegfeld excepted), 95% of those are courtesy of the video cafe.

last film i rented / saw at home: live forever, a documentary on '90s british pop featuring interviews with jarvis cocker, damon albarn (call me!), and the brothers gallagher. liam gallagher on the title song: "it's about livin' forever, innit."

last film i saw at a theater: mysterious skin, as discussed a few posts ago.

last film i saw and hated: ace ventura: when nature calls. i was overcome by a severe case of saturday morning lethargy while tbs was running a jim carrey marathon. i have no one but myself to blame for this.

film i know i should see: dr. strangelove. i have yet to see a kubrick film that makes me like him as much as i'd, erm, like to like him, and i suspect that this would do the trick.

3 films i love:
labyrinth: honestly, david bowie's crotch bulge didn't start bothering me until my little sister pointed it out during The Labyrinth Drinking Game. it's faint praise to say that this is one of the best mainstream fantasy movies around (the field isn't exactly crowded - where's our blade runner?), but, well, it is.

metropolis: i became obsessed with fritz lang at oxford even though the town's only available copy of metropolis had a soundtrack by enya. that's commitment.

pretty in pink: the real reason i began to listen to the smiths (and otis redding, for that matter) and have been dyeing my hear red for the last decade.

3 unsuspecting baton recipients: pica [ding!], paul [ding!], and sara [ding!]. and, of course, the comment crew.

i dig the timing of paul's online kafka diaries; temporarily out of books, i've switched to making plush creepy crawlies. meet my leetle friend gregor (periplaneta americana - 4 photos altogether). would you let him sleep on your pillow?

reading the worst book ever is like losing your virginity: if you suspect it's happened but you aren't sure, it hasn't. i am dead certain that i've read the worst book ever, and it is chris bachelder's bear v. shark. if i met the author in the street, i'd smack him. he seems to be accustomed to this sort of reaction, so i'd smack him again to make my point clear.

jacketed as "quick, commercial-like segments that mirror the media it satirizes," bachelder's style is better pegged as a product of sloth:
I hadn't written much fiction before, and it was the only way I could write it. I couldn't handle a long plot, I couldn't handle a long involved narrative, so I had to break it up into pieces, so it was very practical in that sense. I was really just trying to write a novel the only way that I could, and at some point I said to myself okay, this has got to work at a thematic level too otherwise it won't work at all, but it happened to.

(bookslut interview, 01.04)
nods toward more diligent novelists (pynchon and wallace pop up two and four times, respectively) make it clear that he's been exposed to plenty of solid structure, and a few decent characterizations of the nevada desert, for instance, are evidence of real (if smothered) talent. half-page news teasers and a premature index posing as chapters, on the other hand - if those were attempts to "[set] a mousetrap and [spring] it," or "set up punch lines and then pop them...in little fragmented pieces," they were bad. bad like a cobra. bookslut interview, continued:
BS: You were talking about Vegas and the Darwin dome, and that brings to mind something else I wanted to ask you about, which is one of the touches I really enjoyed - how Vegas was its own sovereign nation, and I kind of thought that you could take that three different ways, which is that A, Vegas is just so outside the norm of American life that it really deserves to be its own country, and they're kind of playing up that angle right now, if you've seen their commercials..

CB: Oh really?

BS: I think their tag line is, "Vegas - what happens here, stays here."

CB: [laughing] Oh, that's funny.

BS: Or B, that Vegas, being the entertainment capital of the world, and you can disabuse me of this notion if I'm way off base here, I thought you were saying that Vegas would naturally be alone because of the aloneness that necessarily results from surrounding yourself with all these amusements instead of real relationships...

CB: Ohhh -

BS: Or the third thing is that C, that I'm reading way too much into a throwaway gag.

CB: I really -- I really like that second one, and I wish that it had been a conscious intent -- I'm not sure it was, but I like that idea. Especially in the sense -- Wallace talks about this too, about how lonely watching television and our entertainments can make us -- that television produces that isolation, but I can't say that I was going for it intentionally.
it pains me to think that this is how published authors work. flames, on the side of my face...breathing, breathless, heaving breaths...


between the end of the michael jackson trial, seeing mysterious skin with joe and jake, and wrapping up john irving's until i find you, this weekend had a pretty robust molestation theme. of the king of pop shenanigans i have nothing to say; as with the star wars prequel trilogy, i made a point of avoiding the whole thing. mysterious skin, gregg araki's new flick starring joseph gordon-levitt (aka the floppy-haired kid from third rock from the sun), is an equally disturbing but much more artful exploration of the effects of sexual abuse. it's the most affecting treatment of the subject i've ever seen, for a number of reasons: gordon-levitt as the main character is understated but outstanding, the sex scenes are effective without being graphic or exploitative (tough to do when representing everything from molestation to an AIDS-afflicted john to brutal assault and rape), and the filmmakers make a point of exploring all of the victims' emotions. not an easy film to watch, but a very brave and worthwhile one. as for until i find you, i have to revise my revised opinion of its worth; the story doesn't go entirely downhill when jack goes from being a cute little boy tagging along in european tattoo parlors to a victimized pre-adolescent, a dirty little teenager, and finally a hopelessly underdeveloped actor. some of the final reconciliation scenes with jack's father are, cough, deeply felt, but they emphasize the vacuousness of the american boarding school and hollywood (o, the hollywood) scenes that precede them. one can't blame irving for wanting to fictionalize the experience of adapting the cider house rules, but at no point is he in danger of saying something original about the movie industry. i'd have liked to see a few peripheral themes dropped to make room for a meatier core.

those of you who prefer to think of prettier things might enjoy a poetic collage generator (via (francis). mine had a lot of ominous construction signs, snowflakes, and tiny birds.


the music prompt has become a book baton; this time it comes from paul.

total number of books i’ve owned: when i picture the bookshelves i filled and emptied before high school, i imagine it’s got to be something like 2000. our apartment and my office each have a few hundred now, and there are at least a thousand in my mother’s garage in northern california – or there were before she moved, anyway.

last book I bought: a two-dollar copy of clarissa, samuel richardson. that it’s (as previously mentioned) abridged and unreadable is a sign, i think, that i should be reading contemporary stuff: I’m currently on the lookout for tsipi keller’s jackpot.

last book i read: still tearing through until i find you, john irving. getting the impression that this was not the best place to leap into his oeuvre.

last book i finished: apprentice to the flower poet z., debra weinstein, an occasionally amusing satire. i still have a fairly short fuse when it comes to hee-hee novels about academia.

5 books that mean a lot to me:
the golden compass, philip pullman, is tucked away (along with the rest of the his dark materials series) for when my sisters have kids. i love this and its message as much as i hate c.s. lewis’s narnia books (read: a lot).

the hobbit, j.r.r. tolkien, and the lord of the rings. my dad came up with amazing voices when he read these aloud. i wish we’d attempted homemade audiobooks, especially for the grond scene.

infinite jest, david foster wallace. whether or not i liked the book seems unimportant; what matters is that it’s changed my feelings about everything i read before and since.

digesting the child within, john callahan. callahan drew crude, primarily single-panel cartoons syndicated in the los angeles times in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s; many depicted aspects of his life as a wheelchair-bound alcoholic in an intensely offensive way, and showed me how (and why it’s crucial) to laugh at horrible things. how my mom let me have a copy is still beyond me.

where’s dan quayle?, jim becker. i think i asked for this (a where's waldo? parody) as a birthday present in ’91. in retrospect, that was probably the point at which it became impossible for me to think of republicans as three-dimensional people.
5 people i want to see do this: it’s all you again, commenters.


we teamed with intrepid west coast visitors sara and josh for a trip to the brooklyn museum on the last day of the basquiat exhibit; god bless corporate memberships (yeah, i said it), for my company card saved us at least a few hours of grumbling and shuffling. the show itself was capital, though i was disappointed that the spooky painting from basquiat’s times magazine cover (the same image on the museum site’s exhibit page) wasn’t actually present. menacing drawings from radiohead albums and mid-‘90s comics conditioned me to like that sort of art best of all.

in other graffiti news, spotted a bitchin’ batman / neckface billboard as we crossed the williamsburg bridge on the way back home last night. in other other graffiti news, banksy is fucking awesome (as long as he isn’t hurting the farm animals).

am reading until i find you, john irving's newest. it is also awesome, at least the part about tattooing one’s way across northern europe. and who knew sailor jerry worked in canada?

post script: thank you, pica, for drawing attention to "the case against coldplay" ("the most insufferable band of the decade") in today's times. lest i echo a link without providing anything of my own, dear readers, i'll tell you a dirty secret: joe is partially responsible for the visas that got chris martin et al. into the united states a few years ago. while it's tempting to hate him for this, remember that he thought he was serving his country.


the season finale of the OC is, say, half responsible for my reading chuck klosterman's sex, drugs, and cocoa puffs this weekend. adam brody reminded me of its existence, but i'd had a copy in my aforementioned pile of free stuff from a friend. i think that's where it came from, anyway: in the past few years i've acquired three extra copies of infinite jest, origins utterly unknown.

as it happens, this was an appropriate way to get my hands on SDCP. it's solid weekend reading, but i can think of more satisfying ways to spend $20. his essays follow the template i beat to death as a college columnist (and, let's be honest, as a blogger): non sequitur intro, mildly provocative personal anecdote, pop trivia, comment on Our Life and Times, return to non sequitur. this is by no means revolutionary - a lot of people do this very well - but it's never reminded me of my own crap before. this was like the first day of high school when the vice principal followed the public speaking walking pattern we'd learned in eighth grade. point being...formula detracts from klosterman's points, some of which (the piece toward the end on journalists and truth, for instance) are quite good. i'll cop to being titillated when he name checked douglas - no argument, he's awesome - but i didn't need thirty seven mentions of the fact that douglas drank orange juice at a seattle pop conference, even if they're supposedly part of a larger point about the disconnect between critics and musicians. by all means, chuck, tell us that your friend danced with a serial killer at a bar; don't end your essay with something to the effect of "let's dance, cowboy." that's what i do when i'm writing like an asshat.

in kittenwar news, this is how our own charles bronson has performed in 1072 battles:

won: 338 (32%)
lost: 605 (56%)
drawn: 129 (12%)