brothercyst: 2009

Thursday, December 31, 2009

OCEAN STORM

Today is kind of cloudy, which is rare, but I went in the ocean.  The waves were very big.  It was just me and some surfers.  It started rain while was in the water.  A storm coming over the palm trees and the rain rushing onto me while I was in the ocean was really cool.

NEW YEAR'S EVE

It's raining a bit. The internet is working. All has been calm.

I wrote about Teatro Grottesco in a post on HTMLGIANT.

Since I've been in the Dominican Republic I've read Outliers, The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Other, and The MagiciansI've hardly gone to the beach at all.  I'm mostly eating and writing.  It's lovely.

Friday, December 25, 2009

CHRISTMAS MORNING

I am here, safe, tired. Incredibly, the wireless down the road from the house is working and even quite strong now. I spent Christmas day reading like this:



Now the sun is starting to set, and I'm going to read a little more and write until I fall asleep.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009 BRIEFLY CONSIDERED

So I'm about to leave New York, and the United States, in less than 24 hours.  When I come back, it'll be a new decade.  What happened during the last one?  At the end of 1999, I was in high school, with braces, and skeletally scrawny.  Almost exactly ten years ago, my high school teacher was driving me, my best friend, and my girlfriend to New York (from Maryland) so we could go see Paul Thomas Anderson's brand new movie Magnolia, which was only playing in New York & L.A.  I had just gotten into college, I was sixteen, and I wanted to be a movie director.  What happened with all that?  I'm still friends with my high school teacher--I dedicated my first book to him.  I haven't spoken to the girlfriend or the best friend since 2000, because they started dating each other after I went to college.  In the years between 2000 and 2009--fuck it, this is too unsettling, I can't do it.  Let me just look at 2009.  The writing-related stuff.  What happened?  A lot, actually.
  • The year started out fucking brilliantly.  The whole country was in a recession and out of nowhere I got a grant I wasn't expecting.  
  • Midnight Picnic came out, thanks to Word Riot stepping in after Impetus folded.  
  • Hollywood didn't buy the TV pilot that my writing partner and I wrote, although we did fly out there a couple times to meet with some talented people who wanted to make it... but ultimately couldn't get funding.  Still, that was a cool experience.
  • In late January it became clear that a lot of people at my day job, me included, were living on borrowed time.  
  • I wrote a novel during the first half of the year.  It's pretty much finished, and I love it.  Uncharacteristically enough, it's a YA novel.  Writing it was one of the more fun/creatively fulfilling periods of sustained writing in my life.  But I haven't sold it yet... which is the most annoying/dispiriting part of 2009.
  • I went to Morocco.
  • We wrote another TV pilot, a comedy, just to see if we could.  We could.
  • After six months of waiting, I finally got laid off from my day job.  I was glad to go, although obviously the disappearance of a safety net causes anxiety.  But because of the grant from earlier in the year, which I'd just put in the bank, I didn't have to worry about finding another job right that instant.
  • It rained for the entirety of June, which depressed and disoriented me.
  • I went to Readercon
  • I went to the Dominican Republic.  ASB came to visit for the last five days.  Those two weeks in the DR, as a whole, were probably the most blissed-out/enjoyable two weeks of my life.  
  • I shaved my head.
  • We worked intensively on a feature film script.  In the current draft, I think it's both excellent and outlandishly unhinged--so much so that I think we need to do another draft to make it less insane.
  • During summer and fall, I worked on another novel.  This one isn't finished.  A first draft is, but I need to do a lot more work on it. 
There's probably some important stuff I forgot.  I guess I should be thinking about what I want to do in 2010, though.  I don't want to let another three or four years pass before I publish another novel.  I've been up all night.  I'm going to sleep.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

UH

Louisiana, where I was born, is ranked #1 for happiness out of all the states in the country.

New York, where I live now, is ranked last.

ANOTHER YEAR END LIST

Nick Antosca's Best [Books] of 2009.  (Sort of)

Monday, December 21, 2009

IT'S GOOD TO WAKE UP EARLY

What a productive morning I have had!  I woke at 4, wrote some, imported pictures from my camera, began reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (which is clearly a "well-written" book, but is told in an obnoxiously "sassy" voice that is off-putting, at least in the first few pages, even though the story seems entertaining/funny so far and the asides are interesting... at the very least it's good to read given my current interest in the Dominican Republic), went to the DMV and got my driver's license renewed, went swimming, got new glasses (with a gift certificate that was about to expire, so I had to use it... they will be back-up glasses), and sent a bunch of emails.

Good job, self.  Now the pressure is on not to waste the rest of the day.  Or, God forbid, fall asleep.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

GROSS

This is what it looks like outside right now:


So I can't wait to go to the Dominican Republic and/or L.A.

Right now, I'm staying indoors.  I ventured outside to buy tomatoes and garlic because I wanted to make an omelet, and my face pretty much froze off.

The fire department went to ASB's house because the carbon monoxide alarm went off.  Now they're not allowed to use the heat anymore.  This happened tonight, while the blizzard is going on.  Amazing.

I finished reading Teatro GrottescoMore on that later.  It was amazing.  I bought The Magicians by Lev Grossman, which I hear is good.  Soon to read.  Also bought Koko and Ghost Story to re-read when I get a chance.  Koko was one of my favorite novels as a kid.  I just read Straub's A Dark Matter and liked it.

This is a fun article.  Those kids will be very popular at Yale.

So I saw Avatar the other night.  So worth seeing.  I hardly even know what I thought of the movie.  I was completely immersed in the landscape.  Sit close to the screen.  (And see it in 3D obviously.)

THIS IS NICE

I never learned how to take compliments as a child, but I will say that I'm flattered/surprised/pleased to just now see Midnight Picnic on a couple best of year lists by Tobias Carroll and Matt DeBenedictis.  Thank you for reading...

Today is so cold.  I went swimming in the afternoon.  The Y on 14th St. costs $90 a month, which seems exorbitant.  I might consider quitting and joining another place that has a pool and charges only ~$700 a year, which as a lump sum is obviously brutal, but amortized it's a much better deal.  The only issue is that the pool is outdoors.  It's apparently heated, so I could swim on days when it's literally freezing outside like today... but would that be actually physically dangerous for me to do?

I saw Avatar last night.  So blue!  Very immersive.  I'm going to see it again, with IMAX etc.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

COMPRESSED DAY

Posted my current Best Movies of the Decade list at HTMLGiant.

Dunno wtf is wrong with me today. I woke up at 1:30. Watched The Constant Gardener last night. Did some reading, some thinking... preparing for Dominican Republic departure next week. Tonight I have to run some errands then go to a focus group where I'll be paid $100 to give opinions for 2 hours. Easy money, I like it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

LAPTOP GETS BULLET HOLES

This is an amazing blog post. I'd be having a heart attack if airport security shot my laptop.

Here's a Haaretz story about it.

BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR


I just finished reading a novel that now ranks among my all-time favorites. Until a few weeks ago I'd literally never heard its title or the name of its author who, as far as I can tell, has only three published novels to his name, one from the '80s and two from the mid-'90s (I haven't read the others, but am going to). The novel is Brand New Cherry Flavor by Todd Grimson. (Maybe the only thing I actually didn't like about the novel is its title, which has no referent in the book and seems totally arbitrary/self-conscious. Believe me, given the content of the novel itself, there are about five million titles that would have been better. For example, Tomorrowland. Or Auteur Theory. Or Zombies in Hollywood. I don't know.)

Extremely condensed and summarized, the novel concerns an aspiring actress/director named Lisa who wants to get a job as an assistant to a famous director, so she sleeps with a studio executive. When he wriggles out of the implied deal, she tries to get revenge with the help of a voodoo priest who lives in East L.A. It would be foolish to say anything more, except that I stayed up all night two nights in a row reading the novel (alternating with writing--otherwise I would have finished it in a night, I think), which is richer and more engrossing than any summary can suggest. The satire of ambition and sexual politics is funny, smart, accurate-feeling. There are a million characters. It gets dizzying. Not much can turn my stomach, but the scenes of horror here really are revolting, bizarre. The voodoo priest, with his shrunken heads and his calm celebrity homicides, is fucking awesome. The narrative got so labyrinthine, what with trips to Brazil and mind-birthed art films, that by the end I was flipping back and forth to make sure I'd followed threads (biggest wait, what?: So was it a coincidence that the wife helped him track down the couch upholstered with the skin of the white jaguar sometime well before Lisa hired Boro? And then after her husband ended up in pieces nailed to the wall, she started working with him, wearing the costume? Was she, then, complicit in Lou's downfall?) and how they were involved with each other, what crimes they were responsible for.

The dizzying feeling was the same one I get near the end of Ellroy's totemic L.A. Quartet books, especially L.A. Confidential, and Grimson must have read those (Ellroy blurbed him, after all) and been influenced, I would think. But Grimson's novel is way more surreal. It employs a certain degree of "dream logic" and, obviously, elements of the supernatural in a way that Ellroy has never tried, and I think would not want to try. I think, actually, that Grimson's novel comes closer than any novel I've ever read to capturing the real rhythm/experience of a dream or nightmare. Strange, implausible, unexpected things happen--but within the structure of the experience, they make sense, and there is a genuine feeling of non-arbitrary cause-and-effect. So you feel that Grimson has done his work as a writer and is not cheating by using "dream logic" as an excuse to just write whatever the hell he wants and go off on tangents--you feel that he's actually done harder work than a writer would be who was obeying more traditional laws of narrative.

The ending, also, has that dream logic feel. It just gets to a certain point and stops. Certain things aren't wrapped up, although a lot are. It ends very abruptly.

I can only describe Brand New Cherry Flavor as a near-perfect book for a very particular type of reader, those who love the work of the following artists:

David Lynch
James Ellroy
Clive Barker
Bret Easton Ellis

It's truly what an unholy combination of work by those people would look like. I mean, almost exactly. Imagine what that book/movie would be, and that's Brand New Cherry Flavor.

Monday, December 14, 2009

MINDY JONES

I love this woman's interview... this is amazing. I laughed so hard I just choked on a piece of food. [Edit: Also, stealing is bad. And so, obviously, is drunk driving. But that's an amazing clip.]

DIE, MTA

Unreal. I mean, considering how they could've gone a long way toward solving the problem with the congestion pricing proposal that got killed in 2008.

OLD DAYS

I just found this old picture on my hard drive:



That's me and Ned Vizzini in 2003, outside Don Hills. I must have been a junior in college then, and Ned had just graduated or was about to graduate... we'd probably known each other for less than a year. How he got the black eye is a story I'll leave untold right now (who knows if I even remember it correctly). I look very smug in this picture, I think... something about my mouth. And Ned looks like my ne'er-do-well Brooklyn bruiser cousin. Italians!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

6 AM BABBLE

It feels good to be up late right now. My heart's beating very quickly--I just did a lot of push-ups. I drank a lot of soda tonight, staying up. I'm writing a story... not an epic big exciting project, just a regular short story, an experiment, to see if I can turn a dream I recently had into a real story with a traditional narrative (without twisting the dream to make it conform, I mean... of course one can do that... I mean just lightly placing the traditional narrative template over top of the dream and trying to produce something that feels true to the dream).

Read the first five stories in Teatro Grottesco. Holy shit, this book is good! Great stories: "The Clown Puppet," "The Town Manager," "Purity"... also maybe "The Red Tower," which really grew on me. I wasn't loving it at first (although I was admiring it) and then something he did at the very end made me suddenly have a whole new perspective on the story.

It's been a long time since I've read a collection of stories that made me sit up and take notice like this.

More on it later, presumably.

Fed-up/anxious about my "career." I've got two more novels finished finished... I feel good about both of them. Like when I stop and think about them, I'm really proud that I wrote them, and I think if I read them, I'd be enthusiastic. But man, I don't know, I've always been a fuck-up when it comes to the business side of this thing we do. Now that I'm really & truly an unemployed writer without family backup money or really any particularly fallback plan, I better learn to not be a fuck-up in that regard.

Today I was completely, completely unproductive until 11 pm at night. I did buy a ticket to see Avatar Thursday night at midnight. I know, I know... huge blue catgoats and so forth. But I bet it'll be worth seeing.

Friday, December 11, 2009

COLD MAD MORNING

Oh my god... I just woke up from a dream that I can't entirely remember but I know it contained:

1) scenes of driving horribly, flipping over an SUV and so forth (clearly prompted by anxiety about doing a lot of driving in the near future);
2) the appearance of a woman I used to be obsessed with (clearly prompted by a recent conversation with ASB about this woman);
3) a scene of urinating copious quantities of blood (prompted by ????)

It's 24 degrees outside in New York right now. The wind chill is 7. I'm really glad I'm not going to work today.

Posted on HTMLGiant about writers who are or could be murderers. Contains picture of Patricia Highsmith that makes me want to date her, even though she was a lesbian.

Last night I finished writing a book review for this book. I liked it. First time I've written a book review in some time, I believe. They're harder to write than movie reviews (because, well, you have to read the book, which takes longer than seeing a movie, and because it seems like more care needs to go into it, somehow, and you as a reviewer are vulnerable in a different way since you're working in the same medium--prose--that was used to create the piece of art you're critiquing), but in some ways also easier (because you have the work right in front of you and you can quote from it--and should, extensively--to bolster your points and give the reader a sense of the book).

Lying beside me in bed right now is Teatro Grottesco. I hope to read some of it today, although I've got some other stuff to do (like writing). I read the Polanski article (link is abstract only) in the New Yorker last night... fascinating reading. The part about his autobiography describing how he recovered from the Tate murders by having sex with lots of European schoolgirls is pretty bizarre.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

CHEAP JACKET

This morning I got a leather jacket at Beacon's Closet in Brooklyn. It's right next to ASB's place so I go there every week or so. It was $27 but I paid $12 because of an old voucher I had. It's obviously worth a lot more than that. What a pleasant place. Because they have only a small section for men's clothes, almost no men shop there, so it's easy to find good stuff (presumably women have it a bit harder since (a) the place is always filled with fashionable hipster girls who, I assume, can be trusted to grab the most interesting stuff right away and (b) the place is staffed by fashionable hipster girls, so the very best stuff for women probably never even makes it out for sale). I saw a winter coat there for $30 that probably cost $500 originally. It was too big for me. Then I came home. I posted on HTMLGiant about writing on the subway more recently. It was disgusting outside this morning. My anticipation for a warmer climate is almost a physical ache.

I finished reading a book today and now I have to write a review for it. I liked the book. I feel listless. I got hypnotized on Monday and it was really interesting. I'll write about it soon.

Also, I wasted most of the day.

Monday, December 07, 2009

WINTRY MIX

Okay, I will definitely take the Tolstoy and the Ligotti to the DR. Still deciding about the others.

That was some nasty stuff coming out of the sky yesterday. Today was prettier. But this whole weekend was a madness. I'm finally in bed with my laptop. The weekend was a strong fail on my part since I didn't do a lot of stuff I intended to do.

I'm considering taking a road trip after January. What better time, right? I don't have a day job, I've never seen a lot of the country, and it just got fucking cold as fuck and probably won't get better until March. Also, I need to learn how to drive.

Saw Up in the Air. Kind of a stoner movie, really. Like Jackie Brown in the sense that you just hang out with the characters for a while rather than follow the plot. Aside from an execrable, disgustingly patronizing/dishonest scene involving J.K. Simmons, and a couple bad moments with the always-unpleasant Danny McBride, the movie is really good. It's funny, Clooney does his usual thing, Farmiga is good, Anna Kendrick has a few surprises... yeah, it's good. The audience really liked it. I thought the ending was perfect--just right.

Friday, December 04, 2009

WHAT SHOULD I READ ON VACATION

I'm going to the Dominican Republic again soon. I have a stack of books beside my bed that I haven't read yet but want to read ASAP. I am trying to decide which ones to bring.

In addition to the ones I noted recently (The Other, Under the Dome, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Far North), there are:

Teatro Grottesco
Anna Karenina
Shadow Country
The Unconsoled
Wanderer

I won't be there for long enough to read all of them, especially if I intend to get writing done. So I must choose carefully.

*****

In the meantime, there is a lot of stuff to be done. The last 48 hours galloped away somehow. I went swimming.

Friday, November 27, 2009

WRONGFRED WINS CONTEST, GETS SHORT IN TIMES SQUARE

Wrongfred, who made the trailer for Midnight Picnic, won a contest for a short commercial that's now being played on a massive building in Times Square. Here's a New York Times post about it. Wrongfred is the same fellow I went to Nicaragua with a while back. Congratulations, my friend.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

PORN BLOGS; LONG KNIVES FOR INSURANCE EXECS; DREAMS; PHOTOS; more

  • I've been busy lately but accomplished very little. Half the day I just read blogs. This famous model killed herself and all the coverage (NYMag, Gawker, Daily Beast, etc) mentioned her blog and how witty and intelligent it was. I tried to read it (it's blocked now) but it seemed totally incoherent, like it was written by a kindergartner on acid. On the other hand, another blog directed me toward the blog of the former Penny Flame, an exceptionally talented porn star who went to "sex rehab" and now writes about it, and it's surprisingly cogent and well-written.

  • Speaking of which, I don't think I ever mentioned this here, but I believe a story I had published on Nerve a while back is anthologized in Smut: Volume 2, their book. So if that's your thing, go to it.
  • Cigna and Ceridian have informed me that my monthly rate for health insurance will go to ~$600 in April. Okay, then! I'll have to figure something else out. So it goes. Cigna and Ceridian executives, if I ran the world, this is you:



  • I finished reading Todd Grimson's Stainless, a strange & surreal vampire novel that reminded me in a lot of ways of Midnight Picnic. It's eerie, lasting, and not like any other vampire novel I've read. Features a silent film actor who becomes a vampire and, many decades later, still lurks around L.A. cutting off heads and making them talk to each other. Brand New Cherry Flavor is still my favorite Grimson, though. I now need to read his first novel.

  • I did a photo shoot yesterday with a charming author photographer whose apartment was remarkable. It reminded me of Grace Paley's apartment, which I was in once (well after her death--a friend was living there--but it was essentially preserved)... one of these ancient NY apartments, incredibly packed with books from floor to ceiling (a tinderbox, really), and halls so narrow they reminded me of nightmares I've had where I'm trapped in very close spaces. I have those nightmares all the time, about corridors and doorways and staircases that are much too small. The photo shoot was interesting/fun. I liked the pictures of me. Nothing's more flattering than a picture that makes you look better than you really look. (Although the photographer did say I have "duckling hair," which is kind of true... ever since I shaved my head, it's grown back much more thin & wispy. Since none of my genetic predecessors have this condition, I worry that it's related to Adderall use in the first 7 or 8 months of this year...)

  • Years ago, a friend of my ex-girlfriend was in London at a photo exhibit and was startled to see a photo of her in one of the exhibits (this photo). The friend took a picture of the picture, which we later saw; D. had no idea that the photo had ever been taken (although it was clearly her, in the place where she'd grown up) and the friend couldn't remember the name of the photographer or any other details. Then later I came across the same photo at random looking through online photographs. I emailed the photographer--who was thrilled to find out who his subject was (and that, years later, she was a Yale student and not a prisoner or martyr or something), since he'd been receiving questions about the photo whenever it was displayed. It all comes back to mind now, because he just emailed her to say that he still constantly gets queries about it.

  • My style of dreams was inherited from my mother, I think. I can remember breakfasts at home when I was a little kid... my mother sitting down and saying things to the effect of "I had this dream last night: I was in a huge mansion, but the center was all open space, so you could see up to the upper floors. And there were panthers up there! Big, dangerous panthers, covered in jewels. And they were talking in angry voices, but they didn't see me..." or "I was swimming in the ocean, this really beautiful blue ocean, where the water was crystal clear... and there were sharks everywhere! Huge sharks, thousands of them, so many they were bumping into me and each other..." [I actually had that exact same dream, much later.] Other people sometimes tell me they have boring dreams. I'm glad I have dreams like my mom.

  • I'm going to Maryland for a few days, to eat Thanksgiving leftovers and relax. ASB is going to meet my parents. I told her don't worry about anything, just be aware that my parents are slightly old-fashioned and they don't like women who wear pants.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

BABY LEG NIGHT

Very sunny outside today, but cold (the way I like it). Yesterday I did a good amount of work, just enough to not feel bad about. In the afternoon, Ned came over and we had a pizza. Then I went to Carnegie Hall with a free ticket from my friend Miriam to see the fado singer Mariza, a great performer whose theatricality reminded me of the opera singer with the blue tentacles from The Fifth Element. Afterward I went home and roused Ned from his pizza-nap on my couch and we went to the Tyrant's party for Baby Leg by Brian Evenson. I didn't want to spend money so I didn't want to both pay the entry fee and buy the book. I bought the book and read it in its entirety. It's good! It's also a beautiful book artifact, with gold leaf and cloth-bound hardcovers. Hel. O. posted this short "worst swearword" vignette on Facebook. Cute story. I took a short nap and then my roommate texted to see if I wanted to meet up at a bar where the SNL after-afterparty was, and I did. I avoided spending much money on drinks. I fell asleep at 7-ish, and now it's noon and lovely outside, and I'm reviewing entries in my dream ledger.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

THOMAS LIGOTTI

I keep hearing about this guy, but peripherally. His books look and sound pretty fascinating. Strange/surreal horror. No one I know personally, however, has read him. Is he good? Should I be buying this stuff ASAP?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

BOOKS I'VE BOUGHT

I just bought, but haven't yet read:

The Other by Thomas Tryon
Under the Dome by Stephen King
and (after a conversation with a friend who edits YA)
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

also, after seeing the National Book Award nominees read last night, I intend to soon get/read:

Far North by Marcel Theroux. The section he read was awesome.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

HAVE I MENTIONED I HAVE A CRUSH ON SOMEONE



Elizabeth Lambert, feisty defender on the University of New Mexico women's soccer team. I love this girl. She's spirited and unwilling to take shit from catty, passive-aggressive Brigham Young girls. Watch how the BYU player subtly grabs the front of Lambert's shorts and yanks them up--and then Lambert is like FUCK YOU and instantly yanks her down by the ponytail, leaving her crying on the field. That's what you get for frontal wedgies.

And here's a big NY Times article about her... in which she says she's seeing a psychologist "to better understand what caused the hair-pulling incident"?? What!?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

BEST BEHAVIOR

Noah Cicero posted a comic novella, Best Behavior, on his blog. It concerns his trip to New York at the end of 2008. Contains caricatures, sometimes grotesque, of numerous indie lit figures in or on the periphery of the same "community."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

WHICH LIFE?

I'm supine in bed with my laptop in an empty apartment, gnawing a large chunk of chocolate I got at Brooklyn Larder (they're cheap and they last a long time). Thinking about how I can get through today without spending any money at all, except for a drink later. I had an amazing dream that was a fully-formed narrative last night. Involved being trapped in a labyrinthine mansion, menaced by enigmatic older brunettes and a ten-year-old with an axe. Woke up with a euphoric jolt around 2:30 to write it all down.

Perhaps you saw the article in the most recent New Yorker about F. Scott Fitzgerald's miserable final years in/around Hollywood. I just wrote an email that made me think about writers whose lives I really wouldn't want to have had. Off the top of my head--
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Dostoevsky
  • Proust
  • Marquis de Sade
  • Hemingway
And those whose lives I would want to have had.
  • Nabokov (this is almost the only person in history about whom, if you said, "Want to give up your life and have his?" I would say yes)
  • James Salter
  • Thomas Malory
  • Orwell
  • Hemingway
Thoughts? What writer's life would you most like to have, or dread having?

I just realized there are no women on my list. Hmm.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

STEPHEN KING'S NEW NOVEL

Under the Dome

Length: 1,100 pages.

Inception to completion: “Nov. 22, 2007 - March 14, 2009

UPDATE: Also, it weighs a couple pounds.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

WHITE'S PRECIOUS REVIEW

I gave Precious a positive review for the blistering performances alone, but I love Armond White's review. White has a reputation as being a contrarian (see this incredible chart, and this for more background), esp. w/ regard to Brian de Palma films and race-related Hollywood productions, and he wrote a deliriously loony shredding of District 9, my favorite movie of the year. If I remember correctly, he was in the same screening of Precious where I saw the film, back during the NYFF -- he cuts a fairly distinctive figure, with his distinguished graying beard and his cane.

Worse than Precious itself was the ordeal of watching it with an audience full of patronizing white folk at the New York Film Festival, then enduring its media hoodwink as a credible depiction of black American life. A scene such as the hippopotamus-like teenager climbing a K-2 incline of tenement stairs to present her newborn, incest-bred baby to her unhinged virago matriarch, might have been met howls of skeptical laughter at Harlem’s Magic Johnson theater.

Wow.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

NEW PRESS: ARTISTICALLY DECLINED / NEWS

Check it out: an interview with Paula Bomer, of Artistically Declined Press. I know and like Paula, so I'm psyched about this. Life seems promising. Jackie Corley and Giancarlo DiTrapano are good acts to follow...

More casting news about the adaptation of Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story... a real thing, happening soon. Very cool.

Here's my new favorite Wikipedia page:

List of People Who Disappeared Mysteriously

I've been meaning to write about sleep. What a headache it is. I got some good news today but it was almost in a dream--I'd just woken from a nap. Actually it isn't even that good, on second though--just good compared to all the other news. Good night...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM SLEATOR


William Sleator was one of the very few "YA" authors I loved when I was young. Sleator's novels (mostly sci-fi or surrealist high-concept) are slim enough to be devoured in an afternoon, although I customarily started reading them around midnight and stayed up until early morning to finish. They seemed to have something that other YA didn't have; they were stranger, more durable, more intelligent and, sometimes, disturbing. Earlier this year I went back and read a bunch of them out of curiosity, and I realized that they're really ingenious, elegantly constructed novellas. I enjoyed them more as an adult, if anything. Among the best:

Singularity: Twin brothers visit the house of a dead uncle, knowing only that strange things have been happening to the neighbors' cattle for years. It has something to do with a playhouse in the back yard--in which time runs differently. One brother thinks of an ingenious way to use the playhouse against the other. Oh, and things from another world are coming through the sink. This is my favorite Sleator book, and in fact one of my favorite novellas.

Fingers: The brother of a celebrated (but spoiled and infantile) pianist who was once a child prodigy helps his mother orchestrate a scheme to revive his brother's career: They will pretend the brother's channeling a dead composer, producing "new work" by that composer. The narrator composes the work himself and passes it off as his brother's. Then the narrator begins to fear that he is actually channeling the dead composer when forging the compositions.

House of Stairs: A group of troubled children wake up in a house which contains nothing but staircases. Gradually they realize they're being conditioned. Acts of cruelty earn more food pellets. Sleator's creepiest novel.

Interstellar Pig
: His most famous book. Light on subtext, but extremely fun and memorable. A kid realizes that the three charismatic neighbors at his parents' beach cottage--who keep playing a strange board game--are actually aliens hunting for a trinket that looks like a cyclopic pig.

I got in touch with Sleator the other day before he left for Thailand, where he spends half the year. It was a pleasure: He gave me wonderfully candid, comprehensive answers, talked about his life in Thailand--he's never talked about his personal life before, as far as I know--and gave me the fascinating story behind Fingers, among other things.


What is your life like? Do you write every day? What do you do when you're not writing?

Sleator: I can't write every day. I have to skip a day in between. If I try to do it every day, nothing comes. What I do when I'm not writing depends on where I am. In Boston I do errands, or read. I'm actually in the USA less than half the time, so a lot of my time in the US is taken up by taking care of the condo I own, going to doctors, dealing with money. Fun things like that. In Thailand, on the other hand, when I'm not writing we are driving around the countryside, looking at the incredible scenery, or exploring small villages and commenting on the houses. Everyone there builds and designs their own houses. You can look at a house and read the personality of the owner. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we gag, other times we admire. The most disgusting houses are the ones rich people build to show off, which in tropical Asia have fake ancient Greek statues on them! I also play the piano a lot, in both countries, just for the fun of it.


You're considered a "Young Adult" author, a label that suggests a certain literalness and "non-literary" quality. But when I re-read some of your novels that I'd particularly loved as a kid--Singularity, House of Stairs, and Fingers, to name a few--they seemed to me more like complex and elegantly structured novellas that also functioned as gripping entertainment. How much are you thinking about your audience when you write? Do you make a conscious effort to write books that can be appreciated on multiple levels?


Sleator: I think about my audience when I write to some extent. Thinking of writing for young adults, I try to keep the stories moving, never a dull moment, to hold their interest. Starting off at an exciting moment, not a lot of endless description. But I also do not hold my own imagination back. If I want to write something that most people would consider weird, I do it. I'm not saying it's all self-expression, you MUST be entertaining. But I try not to fit into a mold, I do what I happen to like myself. I think this is why my books don't make a lot of money. People like books that are reminiscent of other books, and I try not to be.

You spend half the year living in a remote village in Thailand on the Cambodian border. What's it like there? How did you end up having a house there?

Sleator: Hmm. Do I dare answer this question about why I live in this particular village? Well, the way things are today, I think I do dare. In Thailand, I had a male partner for 17 years--he died suddenly and unexpectedly in December of 2008. We lived in Bangkok for six years, then he decided he wanted to build a house--and make an extensive garden--near the village where he grew up, on the Cambodian border. So we built our first house, which is a long story in itself. I wrote a non-fiction book about building a house in rural Thailand called Garlic for Breakfast which has been rejected by 13 New York publishers. (Which is an example of what I've already said about people not liking books that are unique--editors were afraid of it because it was unlike anything they had ever seen before.) When the house was finished and there was no more mud and sawdust everywhere (that first house is wooden) Lep, my boyfriend (his nickname means "Fingernail"), began his garden. He was pretty casual about it, wandering over the property and tossing seeds around, planting banana and coconut trees wherever he felt like it. The result is absolutely gorgeous. His sister and various nieces and nephews moved into the house--Thai people are used to living in groups. (In fact, many families in the countryside live in one room houses. I was often asking people how the parents manage to have offspring in that situation. Nobody ever knew the answer.) So we eventually built another house on the same piece of property, for just the two of us, for privacy. Lep designed this one too. It's amazing, with replicas of Angkor Wat Buddha faces on either side of the front door, and a purple study with grotesque masks on the walls for me to write in. Finally, we built a third house in the actual village where Lep grew up--he had built the first two houses in a slightly larger village because it had a post office and a market--in those days you needed a post office. All our best friends live in the smaller, more remote village where we built our third house. Lep used to tell me what the village was like when he was growing up--he was born in 1961. There were far more trees then, before people chopped them down to make more rice fields, and therefore more rivers and more water everywhere. The one richest family in the village had a radio--period--the only connection the village had to the rest of the world. Everyone would gather at their house in the evening to listen to the news. The village where our other two houses are, and the market there, did not exist. So when he was a kid in order to go to the market you had to ride for two days in a wooden cart pulled by a water buffalo. It is different now, but the atmosphere still remains--lots of rice fields, reservoirs, farm carts going five miles an hour which have no lights on them, so driving at night can be hazardous. I love it there and never spend any time at all in crowded, polluted, impossible-traffic Bangkok any more.

Now that Lep is gone, my best friend is a fisherman. Sometimes I go fishing with him at 4 AM in a deserted lake in the middle of the jungle. No one else there, no motors, absolute silence as he pulls up his nets. I consider it to be heaven.


How did you become a writer? I've read that you were also a serious musician/composer. When did you begin writing, and how long did it take to get published?

Sleator: I've always been interested in both writing and music. When I first started getting published, I also worked as rehearsal pianist for the Boston Ballet, touring with them all over the USA and Europe--I wasn't making enough money from writing to support myself. I also composed three ballets (for no money) that the company performed. When book sales picked up and I started speaking at schools--which was very lucrative--I quit the ballet job and have been writing full time ever since.


Fingers, in addition to being an unsettling ghost story, seems like a novel about the (mysterious) sources of creative inspiration. How do you develop stories? When/how does a premise come to you? (For example, the house full of endless stairs--where did that come from?)

Sleator: Stories develop from things I read and also from my own experiences, and experiences of people I know. When I wrote Fingers--which is full of resentment and jealousy--I was still working for the ballet company. I had been there for five years. My boyfriend at the time had been working there for six months as wardrobe supervisor. The company went on its first European tour. They brought my friend because they needed somebody to take care of the costumes. They did not bring me--they used rehearsal and class tapes I made for $25 apiece. During that summer I wrote Fingers, about a kid who resents his younger brother, a child prodigy pianist. It unleashed all my resentment--I knew it was fair for him to go and me not to go, but there were still emotions involved, and that book helped me deal with them.

I got the idea for House of Stairs when I was a fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. All these writers and people who want to be writers are isolated at the top of a mountain in Vermont for two weeks. People behave differently in that situation than in ordinary life--barriers and inhibitions break down because you know you will never see most of these people again. So I got the idea of writing about five teenagers in a similar situation. I got the setting and the title from an etching by M.C. Escher. The characters are all based on friends of mine from high school.


House of Stairs
, with the children being gradually conditioned into committing acts of cruelty, is a fairly bleak book (although two of the children ultimately refuse to participate). The plots of many of your other novels involve the unexpected destructive consequences of self-interested action. (The Duplicate is one that particularly comes to mind.) What's your view of human nature? Do you believe in good and evil or would you consider yourself more inclined to relativism?

Sleator: Although I have plenty of nasty characters in my books, because they are more interesting (Who do we gossip about? Nice people or obnoxious people?) at the same time I try to stay away from good vs. evil. People adore that plot concept. I find it banal. Still, there are plenty of people in the world who you wouldn't exactly call evil, but who still do destructive things. For instance, the villain in House of Stairs does something that most people never do, which is to tell people nasty things that someone else said about them, who said it and exactly what they said, with some elaboration. I knew someone in high school who did this, and who destroyed relationships this way. It sure juiced up the plot!

Are you working on something now? If so, what?

Sleator: My next book will be called The Phantom Limb. It took my editor three months to read the revised manuscript, and we haven't talked about it yet, so I don't know when it's going to be published. It's about a teenager who finds a mirror box, which is a device created by a neurologist to help amputees deal with phantom limb pain--about 70% of amputees feel excruciating pain in the limb that has been cut off. The main character in the story is not an amputee, but the mirror box he found belonged to a kid, now dead, who was missing an arm and hand. Many people missing an arm and hand feel that their missing hand is clenched in an extremely painful way, and nothing makes that feeling go away--not medication, not hypnosis. But with a mirror box (you can google it and click the Wikipedia entry to see a good picture) you see a reflection of your whole hand, and being a reflection it is reversed, so it looks to your brain as if the missing arm and hand have returned. You can then unclench your whole hand, and watch your missing hand unclench itself in the mirror. The pain goes away, In my story--well, I better not tell any more! Read it when it comes out!

Monday, October 26, 2009

MIDNIGHT PICNIC REVIEW

Just in time for Halloween, GUD Magazine posted a review of Midnight Picnic. It's cool that reviews still keep popping up here and there eight months after publication date.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I'M SO AWAKE!

I interviewed William Sleator earlier this week. That was great, because as I've said before, I love the guy. That interview'll be up in the near future.

And here's a review I wrote of Lars von Trier's nutty Antichrist.

I've been awake all night. I'm going to go swimming in a bit. Because of the way the windows in my room face another building (and face south), I can't tell if it's sunny or not outside. Even the sunniest day looks overcast through my bedroom window. Oh well!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

THE SPIKE JONZE SHORT FILM STARRING KANYE WEST

I love it. [UPDATE: Oh no! It's gone.]

"We Were Once A Fairytale" - Kanye West Dir: Spike Jonze from Yooj‽ - Recording Live From No on Vimeo.


And, just for kicks, the old "Flashing Lights" video that Jonze shot for West.




And...

Invisible Boards

Friday, October 16, 2009

FEVERISH WORK; STORIES; WEREWOLF AND ZOMBIES AND WILD THINGS

It's nearly midnight on Friday and I'm home working hard. I briefly considered leaving my apartment but I felt like I would probably experience acute self-loathing if I accomplished nothing tonight. There are periods when productivity seems effortless (I feel like I had such a period this spring, a spectacular one, and another one briefly when I was in the DR) and other times when it's a brutal slog, a legless journey through a reeking swamp. Now is one of those times. I've done relatively nothing this past six weeks. It's not literally true--I wrote several chapters of something, and I wrote a bunch of reviews for the NYFF, and did some revisions on something else. But it's a rough time, creatively. I wonder... I know other writers read this blog... when your mind isn't cooperating with alacrity, do you persevere ("If I leave my writing for a day, it leaves me for three") or do you chill out for a bit ("I don't force it; it comes when it wants to come")? I persevere, but it's out of anxiety as much as principle.

**********************

I read Scott McClanahan's Stories the other day. I don't know him, but he sent it to me. It's really good. I had a similar reaction to it that I had to the manuscript of Noah Cicero's Burning Babies back when. Thought it seemed sloppy at first, then got very very into it, and read the whole thing in a sitting, basically. It has a number of wonderful stories. They seem to run roughly chronologically backward in the main character's life. They are surreal and macabre and mundane. He and his friends hit a deer and try to put it out of its misery by running over it again and again, but it won't die. A man becomes obsessed with a homeless man who harassed him and keeps running into the man and fighting with him. (The end of that story is particularly great.) A boy's father becomes irate about a possum that keeps going through the garbage. The voice of the narrator is sad, selfish, empathetic, sincere, bitter, and somehow consistent. The only thing I didn't like about the stories is that in many cases, the last two or three sentences go a little too far, suddenly becoming "literary" in a way that the stories and the voice don't naturally lend themselves to. Other than that, however, they are great. I haven't read anything about this collection, published by Six Gallery, anywhere else (although I don't read as many literary blogs as I should, so for all I know it's already big on the indie lit circuit), but it's very much worth dropping a couple bucks on.

**********************

I saw three movies in the theater in the last 24 hours. An American Werewolf in London at Lincoln Center with John Landis speaking was the first. I've seen it a couple times before, but man, what a fucking great movie. Perfect, perfect balance of humor and horror. And Landis wrote it when he was eighteen. He seems like an awesome guy.

Today I saw Zombieland, which I liked way more than I expected to. The infamous cameo was underwhelming after all I've heard about it, but still funny. What made the movie excellent was the very tight (although sometimes too hip/clever) script and the funny, committed performances by Jesse Eisenberg (who seems like a much, much better version of Michael Cera), Woody Harrelson, Abigail Breslin, and the hot, weird-looking Emma Stone. And many good lines. "Do you want to feel how hard I can punch?" "Someone's in danger of getting hair brushed over her ear!"

Then I saw Where the Wild Things Are, which I've been excited to see for a very long time now. The artistry that went into it is admirable, as are the intentions, but I was bored and frustrated. God, this movie feels like a chore. It lacks any sense of anarchy (pretty important for any adaption of the book) or whimsy or fun. I loved the first thirty seconds, up until right after the title flashes. Then we get some vague shit about Max's life and how his mom has a tough job and a boyfriend and life is hard. Trite. Then it's off to Wild Thing land and the trouble really starts. The Wild Things are some boring motherfuckers. There's one good joke that involves two owls, but the sense of wild fun and anything-can-happen invention that made Being John Malkovich such a miraculous experience is absent from this movie. The Wild Things mutter and mope and bicker and pout and it goes on forever. What a trudge.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

ROADSIDE PICNIC

John Madera reviewed Midnight Picnic in The Collagist. Cool.

********

Have you ever seen Stalker? It's a Tarkovsky film about a man--a "stalker"--whose job is to guide people illegally into cordoned-off zones where aliens have visited. The aliens have left, and now the Visitation Zones are off-limits because the laws of physics don't apply there anymore and there are bizarre, incomprehensible dangers. It's a great premise and a fascinating movie, but not a great one.

It's based on a Russian novel called Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Here's the Wikipedia page. The novel has roughly the same premise but is tonally and structurally completely different. It's also, apparently, out of print. But if you Google it, you can get the .pdf of the manuscript online for free. I read it recently on my computer. It's quite short, and kind of great. I'd love to adapt this into a script. How do I find out who has the rights?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

CROWLEY ESSAY IN LAPHAM'S / ONION

I saw the other day that one of my favorite magazines just published a new essay by John Crowley. It's a wonderful essay, involving the collapse of the financial system and the Large Hadron Supercollider and much more.

Lapham's Quarterly is ridiculously fun to read. It's basically a collection of excerpts (plus one or two original essays, like Crowley's) with each issue themed. The excerpts are from a radically diverse bunch of sources usually spanning more than a millennium. When I first heard of it, I thought, "So... it's a textbook?" Then I happened to go to the launch party of the first issue a few years ago and got a free copy of the magazine, which is so addictive that I carried it with me on the subway for several days. That was the "Money" issue. Later I got the "Eros" issue which is, of course, totally fascinating.

Also, check this out: Here's Crowley interviewed by The Onion and here's the book club where they discuss Little, Big at length (scroll down).

Friday, October 09, 2009

FRIDAY

Interviewed Michael Haneke this morning. The first question I asked him was, "Are you afraid to die?" The interview went well.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

FAVORITE MOVIES OF THE DECADE?

I am heartened by the comments on this Hollywood Elsewhere post inviting lists of favorite films of the decade. I posted my list, too, and am reprinting below. (A modified/updated version of my list posted a while ago.)

1. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik)
2. Oldboy (Park Chan-wook)
3. (tie) Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky) and There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)
4. War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg)
5. seasons 4 and 5 of The Shield, with Forrest Whitaker and Anthony Anderson
6. (tie) Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron) and District 9 (Neill Blomkamp)
7. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
8. Undertow (David Gordon Green)
9. Irreversible (Gaspar Noe)
10. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (Park Chan-wook)
11. (3way tie) The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum and United 93 (Paul Greengrass)
12. The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
13. The 25th Hour (Spike Lee)
14. (tie) Grindhouse, theatrical version (Tarantino and Rodriguez) and The Devil's Rejects (Rob Zombie)
15. parts of Inland Empire (Lynch)
16. Sideways (Alexander Payne)
17. Miami Vice (Michael Mann)

honorable mentions (some seen too recently to be sure... have to let them simmer):

The Escapist
Public Enemies
Let the Right One In (but the part where he visits his father should've been cut)
The Lives of Others (I just hate that freeze frame at the end! Otherwise incredible movie.)
The Orphanage (terrifying, but the very end was too heaven-y.)

What are other people's favorites? Am I a fiend for including the Rob Zombie?

************

This is more than a month old at this point, but I just saw this interview and was surprised to come across my name at the end. As I wrote when it came out earlier this year, I read An Expensive Education in galley form and thought it was excellent.

THE DREAMS

God, they're so fucking trite sometimes. I feel lame when I have adolescent wish-fulfillment dreams. Last night I dreamed some nonsense about wandering around the shopping center in the town where I grew up. I was going from store to store, buying things, occasionally shoplifting. A girl who I used to like back in high school--nine years ago, Jesus, I'm twenty-six--was riding around on a bicycle, saying flirtatious things whenever she passed. (She never said anything flirtatious to me in high school.) Her skirt was black, filmy, and translucent, revealing immodest underwear. Honestly, grow up, subconscious.

I prefer dreams that take me to incomprehensibly mutated versions of my life, like this water tiger dream or the crawlspace dreams or the museum toad dream or the vibrating presence one or that thing from the other day. Also acceptable are nightmares that get my blood pumping. When I was younger I used to have those all the time. Once when I was nine or ten or so, I had a dream about a person hung from a wall, being shot repeatedly by a torture/execution squad and vomiting all over himself while being shot. The dream was so vivid, and the sense of horror and humiliation so visceral, that for three days afterward I was incredibly well-behaved because I believed--actually believed on some level--that the dream was a warning or premonition of some kind, and that if I was bad, my parents would arrange to have this done to me. I had a similar dream around the same age where some version of my parents let alligators in a nature preserve tear my stomach open. (My parents are very nice people and were never cruel to me.) It's been a long time, though, since I woke up in the middle of the night with my heart thudding and the "real" memory of some awful dream clinging to me. I do like when bad dreams happen and I wake up and realize they're not real.

I remember once in college dreaming that I had lost one of my arms and the dread of knowing that I would now live as an amputee for the rest of my life. Waking up, I was overcome with such a sense of relief that I was almost euphoric.

Another time, in college, I dreamed that my roommate and I were killing people with a machine gun as they came running out of military barracks. (These kinds of dreams are not normal for me--which is one reason I remember them so vividly.) We killed a lot of people. Then we were arrested, and as the handcuffs were slapped on me, I woke up. You know how the dream consciousness carries over to the waking one for a moment? My first, exhilarating thought was, "Whoa... I just got away with murder."

There was also a time period when I regularly had dreams about being put in jail, usually in solitary confinement, with no shoes. I was never able to identify the cause of those dreams.

Most unpleasant are good dreams involving success, riches, or sudden good fortune. Then I wake up and realize that, no, I didn't find hundreds of shining gold doubloons at the bottom of the pool.

Do other people remember their dreams clearly? Do you? Do you have mundane dreams? Horror dreams? Are you yourself in dreams, a version of yourself, or someone else entirely? Do you do things in your dreams that you would abhor in real life? Do you tend to have wish fulfillment dreams, or horror dreams?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

PRECIOUS

Reviewed Precious, a movie I have no desire to see ever again.

THE TRUTH ABOUT YALE

Ha. Here's a postcard from this week's update of Postsecret.



Anyway, Bret Easton Ellis was right?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

DREAM 9/30/09

I was getting to school (I seemed to be back in high school) and the parking area, or the area where the bus was going to drop me off, was in a wooded area a little distance away from the school. In fact, one had to pass through a little town (which looked much like the High Street/Chapel Street area of New Haven) to get to school. After I left the parking area, I realized I’d left both my phone and my shoes behind there. But I’d already walked far away, and it was past 8 a.m. (when classes started) so I was too far away to turn back and get my stuff without getting to school something like 40 minutes late. I decided not to turn back. As I walked through the New Haven-ish area, I passed a parked car that seemed to be a police car. In the driver’s seat there was a black man who was in a uniform. A knife was sticking out of his chest and he was soaked in blood. He was dead. I was scared/thrilled to see a dead body. A woman seemed to be lying next to him; she seemed to be also dead, but she was vaguer. Beside the car, on the sidewalk, there was a small, thin world atlas. Paperback. I picked it up and looked at it as I walked. I noticed that two inlets in North America (one in Mexico and one in Canada) had little arrows hand-drawn into them as if showing the route of something entering the inlet/bay. The routes were labeled “Vampire Bay” or “Vampire Route” or something like that. I decided to show the atlas to someone in the school office, then get them to write me a note excusing my lateness to class because I’d stopped by the office. When I got there, though, I decided to turn back and go all the way back to the parking area first to get my shoes and phone, because now I had an excuse for being late. I went through a different path, though—I seemed to be moving toward a coast, going along the coast, which was a little rocky, like the coast of Maine. I went through a sort of deserted basketball court that was dark and covered in vines and enclosed by chain linking, including over the top. I looked up and saw naked people in their late teens having sex on the top of the chain linking that covered the top. This was related in some way to a nude photo of a model that I saw pasted to the wall in the bathroom of Ivo & Lulu the night before. The naked high schoolers were very fair-skinned, smooth, downy, like they were not totally human but part-deer or excessively airbrushed.

MUDLUSCIOUS BOOKS COLLECTED

All the releases from Mud Luscious Press's first year will soon be anthologized in one collection.

That includes the writing of ken baumann, shane jones, jimmy chen, brandi wells, blake butler, nick antosca, sam pink, james chapman, colin bassett, michael kimball, jac jemc, kim chinquee, kim parko, norman lock, randall brown, brian evenson, michael stewart, peter markus, ken sparling, aaron burch, david ohle, matthew savoca, p. h. madore, johannes göransson, charles lennox, ryan call, elizabeth ellen, molly gaudry, kevin wilson, mary hamilton, craig davis, kendra grant malone, lavie tidhar, lily hoang, mark baumer, ben tanzer, krammer abrahams, joshua cohen, eugene lim, c. l. bledsoe, joanna ruocco, josh maday, & michael martone.

$15. Worth buying!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

BLUE VELVET AT CABARETCINEMA

I'm introducing Blue Velvet at the Rubin Museum's CabaretCinema program this winter. January 15. Other folks giving introductions include Thelma Schoonmaker (Scorsese's longtime editor, cool) and J. Hoberman. Come see.

Monday, September 28, 2009

FAVORITE MEALS EVER

FOOD PORN POST: I'm awake, can't sleep, and am having trouble writing. I'm thinking about food. What were my favorite meals of all time? Not just dishes ("I like the x and y at restaurant z") but meals, the specific instances? Some of these are bittersweet...

1) Mango in the Dominican Republic, Aug 09: Further details here. Nothing but fresh mango, sliced and cold, in a styrofoam box. It's like the fruit equivalent of ice cream or cold foie gras. Unreal. Eating this in the DR this past August with Ariel after Pino got it for us was maybe my favorite food experience of all time.

2) Ivo & Lulu, Summer 2008: Ivo & Lulu is one of my favorite restaurants in New York--cheap and amazing. My favorite thing to get there is the roasted red pear with melted bleu cheese and the rabbit sausage in miso sauce. One particular time last summer I went there with my friend Laura and we ordered the above, plus a bunch of other stuff, terrine de venison and gratin dauphinois. Plus, Ivo & Lulu is BYOW, so we had a bottle of red wine which made everything taste twice as good. For some reason, the food was even more excellent than usual, and I remember this as one of the best culinary experiences ever.

3) Chilled Uni at Kurumazushi, 2006(?): Went to this place not realizing it was horrifyingly expensive. And we kept ordering sashimi at the bar, piece by piece. The uni was so good that it literally made me a little dizzy to eat it. (I wrote about it at the time.) How can anything taste that good? It made me woozy.

4) Fried Fish from shack in the DR, Aug 09: On one of our last days in the DR, we ordered plates of delicious, crisp, tangy fried fish from the "green shack" on the beach. They came with plates of pork-fried rice and beans, fried potatoes, and gigantic beers. I've never gorged with such insane food-lust, ever. Ariel was aghast.

5) Bacon, avo, brie, apple sandwich, New Haven, '03-'05: I invented my own sandwich from Gourmet Heaven, a deli in New Haven. Toast a sub roll. Then put butter on it. Then thick slices of avocado. Then crisp bacon. Then brie cheese, which should have been laid over the bacon while it was cooking, so it's melted. Then crisp slices of green apple. It is unbelievably delicious. In the summer when I worked at the call-the-alums program, we were sometimes rewarded with "incentives" of $5-$10 of petty cash if we'd gotten the most donations or something. When I got the cash incentive, I would go buy my favorite sandwich on my way home. Those were the best nights.

6) Giant Lobster, 2007: I stayed for a couple days at a friend's house with lots of former classmates, and we got a 20-pound lobster as big as a golden retriever. It was vaguely horrifying--we couldn't kill it by dropping it in a pot, so someone eventually stabbed it through the brain with huge knife, and then we put it on the giant barbecue grill--until I tasted it. It was the most succulent and delicious lobster I've ever tasted.

This list may be updated if I remember others.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY

I saw three movies today at the New York Film Festival.

Samuel Moaz's Lebanon: Excellent and gripping. [UPDATE: Here's my review.]
Corneliu Porumboiu's Police, Adjective: Awful and mind-numbingly dull. [UPDATE: Here's my review.]
Lars von Trier's Antichrist: Awful and gripping.

Tomorrow (Thursday) I hit five more screenings. Or maybe I'll bail if ten hours in the dark is too much.

Friday, September 18, 2009

SICK

Got really sick last night, still sick today. Hardly moved. Semiconscious fetal position situation. Good times.

My review of Jennifer's Body went on Film Threat.


Friday, September 11, 2009

DOCKWEILER

A few months ago, I got a DVD of a 15 min. short film called Dockweiler that was directed by a guy named Nick J. Palmer. I'd met him at KGB and he happened to have a copy with him and gave it to me. Because I'm scattered, it sat in a stack of DVDs I'd been meaning to watch, and I took those DVDs with me to the DR last month. (Others included The Fall and The Hit.) The only one I watched was Dockweiler. It stuck with me then, and I just watched it again this afternoon and was even more impressed.

First of all, it stars Tony Todd, the fucking Candyman (as well as the star of one of my favorite X-Files episodes). I don't know how you get Tony Todd for your short film, but that's extremely cool in and of itself. What impressed me most, however, was how Palmer made such an elegant, intelligent, and effective short film with such economy. This looks professional but it can't have cost much--the only locations I can recall are an office, a parking lot, and a beach. Nevertheless it tells a complete and very affecting story with nuance and grace notes but no extra fat.

It's about an ex-con, played by Todd, who supervises a program a maintenance crew of guys fresh out of jail. They clean shit up on Dockweiler Beach in California. Todd's character has serious anger issues and his family's out of the picture, so he structures his life rigidly around the job, which means a lot more to him than it does to the guys who work for him. A new parolee named McQueen joins the crew and some unpleasant stuff goes down. Very simple, very gracefully done, and very much the work of a director to watch. If I were a producer or studio exec and I saw this, I'd track Palmer down right away.