Monday, April 25, 2005


I hung out with my brother, who is into real estate and a friend of his, who is a stock broker on Friday night at the Blueberry Hill. I learned two things: very attractive girls, I mean the non-made up kind, the types who look like they may have personality - will invariably hang out with douche bags who wear their hats sideways and call their friends 'pussies.'
The other is that our economy is about to blow into pieces. I can't think of a better president to take the blame for it, either, as corrupt as he is. Parts of the economy will be okay, the broker said, because the government has been working to drive up inflation in order to combat the deficit. I have no fucking clue what this means, but it sounds suspect. I've also heard these ominous reports from any number of non-staunch republican economists, inlcuding Richard Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad - which makes a lovely Christmas gift, I've noted.
I didn't see any of the Jeramiad Against Moderation, with its special guest appearance by AIDS expert Bill Frist, but I can only imagine the level of overblown, hilariously inflammatory rhetoric thrown out by these nutcases. I did hear one, by a fellow named Dobson, who claimed that the Supreme Court is responsible for the biggest Holocaust in World History. Now, if only he can prove that the Gays and Jews were behind it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Sin City

There is a reason comic books writers write comic books and not novels: their craft is for shit. For all I've heard of how great a job Frank Miller did on the "re-envisioning" of Batman in the 80s and his "groundbreaking" mature graphic novel (read: comic book) Sin City, I would expect some worthy prose of him. But "She shivered in the wind like the last leaf on a dying tree" is what we're given. That's pedestrian poetry, even worse prose, and a Noir cliche to say the least.
But that is what we're given with Sin City - every Noir cliche in the book. I read somewhere that Miller is a visual artist whose words take a back seat to the images he produces. Fair enough. His images are certainly impressively stark and unambiguous. However, this makes him a hack as a writer, and his words have no place on the screen. I wanted to like the movie, but lazy dialogue like "This is your last day on the force, I'm your partner, we've worked together twenty years" (I'm paraphrasing, but the bare bones are correct) made me cringe. The bad dialogue was made worse with an unending array of voice over narratives that added little to the action, hence, the audience's enjoyment of the movie. I think that if 75% of the voice overs were trimmed, the movie would have been much better (unfortunately the dialogue would remain).
This was a film noir, and as visually groundbreaking as it may have been, the stories seem to crib from some of the most influential noir in cinematic history. Bruce Willis' character was an amalgam of Bogart in the Maltese Falcon, MacMurray in Double Indemnity, and Mitchum in Out of the Past; of course, the amalgam was nowhere near as interesting as its progenitors. Clive Owen unfortunately played the role of the lover incapable of love, which I guess explains why he slaps the shit out Rosario Dawson. Mickey Rourke is the incurable lug, doomed to hell, who finds an ethos shortly before his suicidal rampage. Oddly, they all have the narrative voice of a seventeen year old comic book geek.
The other thing that bothered me throughout the movie was a feeling I get sometimes when I watch Rodriguez movies (if you can call them that), the feeling that I'm watching the most macho melodrama ever created. The movie just seemed like a two hour dialogue with Rodriguez asking you "Is it too real for you? Is it too real?" and then you might reply "No, in fact, it's a comic book," to which he may then say "Pussy." That's the sense I get from Passion of christ as well. I don't mind violence - Pulp Fiction is one of my favorite movies - but come on, ripping a guy's balls off? Like Martin Scorsese tells Larry David, it doesn't play. The symbolism, the theme, it all seemed to be a page from the Rodriguez playbook of reinforcing how awesome his characters are, as if to dissuade you from trying to pick apart the plot.
And the final problem - the plot. Sin City is not a movie. It's a comic book. That's fine if you like that sort of thing, but there's no character development to speak of (in terms of artistry, when I think of the creative process here, instead of a sculptor chiseling away carefully at marble I have the image of an inmate pounding the shit out of some stone slab), the plot is secondary if not tertiary to the cinematography (which is impressive), while the narrative seems to undermine the confident nature of the cinematography (there just seems to be something a little insecure about a groundbreaking movie that has far too mannered dialogue and cliched narratives).
In terms of artistic maturity, one section jumped out at me the most - Rourke's manbeast character stops by his parole officer's apartment. She is, of course, a "Dyke" who could have any man she wanted with that body, which of course she's flaunting - topless and thonged - in front of a psychotic who needs his pills. Yes. Now, gratuitous, chauvinistic nudity has a time and a place, it's just that it tends to follow Cannonball Run 3 on Cinemax late at night. Come to think of it, that's exactly the timeslot I saw "Once Upon a Time in Mexico."

Thursday, April 07, 2005


I've been reading John Gardner's book on writing fiction. It's tailored the for the young writer, and I was heartened to read that the worst possible writer to emulate is James Joyce, because the one thing I tried in his type of form (post Dubliners, when he was inextricably connected to the goings on of his stories) it turned out to be utter batshit. We'll just leave it at my having written words like "soundness." I was also disheartened to be yet again reminded of the incredible amount of dedication and work it takes to be a writer. This has an upside, as I think obsessively, and I think obsessively about writing. The downside is I also think obsessively of my ego, and it appreciates the spotlight. Also, Gardner warns against being too mannered in one's writing. Mannered can be in the form of the frigid isolation of Hemingway or the grand flourishes of Faulkner. The two never were boring, though. I can't imagine how New Yorker shit-fiction could be summarized, mannered or not, but I just find it boring.
Without revealing too many details as to why I'm so concerned (all two of you who read this), I will say that I am tired of reading how the "light bounced off the mirror in all directions" and how his resolve "was as a horse" and all of that bullshit. I want a narrator who is present, who is filtering information, and whom you falsley trust. I want a narrator who has a systematic knowledge that rivals a history book but who also expects the same of the reader; in short, a man who is embellishing and joking, all with a wink to the audience that you'll let him get away with it. That's what all history-writing is, anyway, right?
So I finished reading Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison last week, having finished Ulysses a week before. This was not so much an impressive feat, as I started reading Ulysses back in June, and doggedly went off and on until late March. I would need to finish Juneteenth a second time before I can offer any insights. If there's something I can't stand it's people my age having read an important piece of work and offering their pop psycho-analytic reading into it. The analysis is always self-serving and the result is often something you can't refute because you don't know how much bullshit this person added to bolster their bullshit theory. Next up is Heart of Darkness. Easy, you say? Only about a hundred pages? Nonsense. There's never been so lazy a scholar as I am, and you may have caught this with my somewhat transparent attack in the preceding paragraph on others who actually attempt to put their scholasticism to work.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A Few Things

First off, as a premise for the rest of the time I post things on this blog, we will assume that all sportswriters are idiots. This does not include David Halberstam, because he is a historian. It does include anyone you might find on, (I could give a shit about the lattes Peter King's been ordering) (and I might add, Dr. Z does not count either, as he is one of few sportswriters with common sense and a sense of humor as to the folly of taking sports seriously). I write this because I get more and more annoyed with Bill Simmons every time I see a post from him. I used to love everything he wrote, until I started looking at all things I read with a critical eye. I talked to my brother the other day, and we agree that he's awful when he gets away from talking about the NBA because you know what? No one likes a town that complains about it's sports heartbreak when it's had some of the finest basketball and hockey dynasties in sports. I might also add that many of these people define their geography with sports. Sports. Yes. "I come from Yankee country." No, you don't asshole, you come from northern Massachussetts. You come from indian country, if anything. What gets me so annoyed is a) the omniscient voice sports writers tend to speak with. This omniscient voice may be true with anyone voicing an opinion and especially on the cable outlet stations, but aside from political discourse, nowhere is the omniscient voice more abused than the sports world. It's most despicably used on ESPN, where they commonly have a segment called Fact and Fiction, and it is harmless, to be sure, except for when the dorky guy calls the former quarterback a dumb jock and the former quarterback calls the dorky guy a poindexter. Mature. But the very notion "fact and fiction" is what has come to dominate the discourse in (innocuously) sports talk and (maliciously) political talk. The idea that something must be indisputably true or otherwise a bald-faced lie is a disservice to anyone, especially when those arbitrating are as manipulative as your Bill O'Reilly or dumb as your Sean Hannity. It may serve me here to widen the scope, because this is the media today, not just sports and politics (though those two do, of course, dominate the medium), but I won't because I'm boring myself.

Onwards, the small things that annoy me about Simmons add up after a while. He once wrote a column asking whose a better actor, Pacino or De Niro. You cannot qualify such questions as you might with sports, and even then, it's dicey. Who's better Tom Brady or Kurt Warner? How about Warner before the flameout, when he had one of the greatest seasons of all time? So then how about Pacino before the mid-90s (and we can ignore the awful Scarface remake) when emoting to Pacino did not mean widening his eyes and saying "Asshole" with three syllables? To Simmons, it all came down to the scene in the coffee shop, where he claimed Pacino broke character by smiling at the very end. That was the tale of the tape to him. Directors, especially those of Michael Mann's caliber, would not leave such an obvious goof in such an important scene. There's a slight, almost imperceptible look on Deniro's face after they say it may not come down to killing each other in the end. Then Pacino smiles. It's the obvious pipe dream that it won't come down to such an end for two driven characters. It's small things like these that annoy me about Simmons, and they build up.

Next: social protocol. I've gotten a rap for being misanthropic at times, and at times I've earned it. I can't stand bullshit social protocols, saying hi to people I'd rather not. I've also, in rare occassions, confronted people I find distasteful. Here's the way the social protocol will work with your richer Marquette kids: say I disapprove of someone because he treats women with disdain and descriptive vulgarities; say he also happens to pretend to take a moral stance on most issues. So basically, say he's a total bastard. But also an acquaintance, who I have had friendly conversation with before. Because I haven't made a note of telling him how abhorrent he is, I am his friend. So, should he mistreat someone and act like the lout that he is, and suppose I confronted him about it. I would be the one labelled an asshole, because confrontation on such dicey issues is just something you don't do. Talking to people you can't stomach is preferred. Fuck that. I found most people I ran into this past weekend to be grotesque. Frankly, I have neither the willingness or the intellectual dishonesty to pretend to like them, because to me, acting in the way I've described is dishonest. I'm sure as I have more perspective on this later on, I'll mellow my stance. As things stand now, however, I'd rather antagonize people I don't like by not talking to them than become friends with people I can't stomach because I do talk to them. Amen.

Monday, April 04, 2005


I noticed in the SI post I said "liteary" when I meant of course, literary, and if anyone actually read this site and happened to disagree with some of my core beliefs, they'd think it made me out to be fraud, should I have had enough visibility to be fraud. This brings me to the weekend. Is it completely pointless to think of someone as a fraud if they don't have their own cable news talkshow, that is, someone who is not highly visible to others (okay, visible to a very small fraction of the American population period), and someone who is not obviously a fraud? That question has one error involving the phrase "not obviously" but that doesn't matter since the answer - embrassingly unbeknownst to me before say, now - is of course it's completely pointless. The hardest part of growing up is trying to forget my delusions of grandeur and completely meaningless rivalries. If only I were a Bush, then I could keep these meaningless rivalries and pass it off as "political synergy." Alas.