brothercyst: August 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

I SHOULD HAVE SHAVED MY HEAD BEFORE I CAME HERE

i want a tan skull

i havent shaved since ive been here, i have a beard

today we had three fried fish for lunch

im using a computer that sits outdoors all day, the puncutation is hard to figure out so im going to type without any units of punctuation that i have to use more than one key to produce

went snorkeling, it was harrowing

had amazing food, spent almost no money, this half'month trip cost less than the week i spent in morocco in may

wrote a lot

most days were beautiful, two huge tropical storms came with thunder so loud it hurt

saw landcrabs running around in the grass

its tropical, im staying in a house off a dirt road surrounded by dense bright green vegetation and palm trees, the dirt road leads right to the beach

read a bunch of books, including confessions of a justified sinner and rebecca--both of those were awesome

Monday, August 17, 2009

FLIGHT AT DAWN

Hm, should be sleeping but can't. About to go get a cheesesteak. I'll be flying to the Dominican Republic at 6 a.m. this morning, and probably won't be updating this blog very much, or at all, until I get back depending on internet access. In the meantime, go see District 9, multiple times perhaps, and read The Tenant. Okay, I haven't read it yet, so I can't really vouch for it, but it looks good and I like the cover.

Friday, August 14, 2009

DISTRICT 9: LOVED IT [UPDATED]

Saw District 9 today. Fucking awesome. Sitting down now to work all night, can't spend time writing too much about it. But I'm going to see it again at least once before I leave Monday for the Dominican Republic. Can't get over how good it was. Cat food, Christopher Johnson, Nigerian gangsters, evictions, popcorn popping, grabbing the missile... so many great moments. Cannot wait to see it again.

[UPDATE, 24 HOURS LATER: Saw it again. Loved it.]

NEVER SHOPPING AT WHOLE FOODS AGAIN

Matter of principle.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

I reviewed Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds for Film Threat.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

FUNNY STORY

Good news! They're making Ned Vizzini's 2006 YA novel It's Kind of a Funny Story into a movie. Not maybe next year or the year after, but now. This fall. If you haven't read it, read it; it's good.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

EDUCATION

Just saw Nick McDonell's An Expensive Education review in the Washington Post. It's out now, I think, although the Amazon entry is confusing. Read a galley last month and really liked it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

OFFHAND BASTERDS

I saw Inglourious Basterds last night. Overall, I enjoyed it--but I also thought that this post about it, from a guy who was at the same screening, is fundamentally right in most ways. The scene he talks about really is discomfiting. And it's also true that at no point was I "cheering for" the Basterds, who are a completely undeveloped and unsympathetic lot.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

WAIT UNTIL DARK

I just watched the 1967 Terence Young movie Wait Until Dark, one of the more memorable suspense thrillers of all time, which I hadn't seen in quite a while. Henry Mancini's score is one of the great film scores. Alan Arkin is particularly memorable as the evil "Harry Roat Jr. from Scarsdale." Audrey Hepburn can be a cloying performer, but generally does a good job as the blind woman trapped alone in her basement apartment, beset by predators.

Wait Until Dark is ingenious and well-staged but also (something that I didn't realize when I first saw it at the age of maybe ten) absurd. It's based on Frederick Knott's play, which suffers from the same problems. Why would these guys go to all these trouble to recover an amount of heroin so small that it could be hidden inside a child's doll? When you see the heroin... it's really not much. It's a handful of little packets of what looks like ten grams each. In 1967 in New York City, couldn't you buy that sort of thing in parks or in jazz clubs? I mean, really. And why go through all the theatrics anyway? But still, Knott's script does play power games brilliantly, seesawing dominance between characters every few lines. And all that stuff doesn't matter when we get to the spectacular final scene with Roat drenched in gasoline dragging himself across the floor of the apartment with a huge knife.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

GETAWAY IN MARYLAND

I'm out of town, visiting family. There is a trampoline on the backyard and the cat gets on it.

I also saw David Twohy's A Perfect Getaway today. Pretty much agree with the NYTimes review--it was really fun. (Ebert's review is also worth reading.) About a geeky, vulnerable couple (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich) on honeymoon in Hawaii where they encounter a scary, scarified Iraq vet (Tim Olyphant, great) who may or may not have murdered another pair of honeymooners earlier in the week. "He's really hard to kill," his girlfriend (played by the gorgeous and naked Kiele Sanchez) says proudly, conveying a promise right from the screenwriter to you. And there's another ominous couple, Marley Shelton and Chris Hemsworth, whose bag contains something nasty.

The movie's especially interesting from a storytelling perspective. In some ways it's a "meta" movie, about the construction of story and character. It kind of cheats, I felt at first, but on second thought I decided that accusing it of cheating is like accusing Funny Games of cheating: That's kind of the point. Because it tells you how it's going to cheat and, later, how and why it cheated. Also it does something wonderful, which is free the audience from the burden of at least nominal alignment with the "good guy," which is always a problem in horror movies. Like for example in Friday the 13th we really don't care that much about whoever the protagonist is, some running/screaming thing, kind of a nerd, whatever... we're more interested in Jason. But of course we can't actively align our interests with his because, well, he's evil. (Or, for a more out-there example of the same kind of problem, we're not as taken with Henry Hill in Goodfellas as we are with Jimmy Conway or Tommy DeVito.) A Perfect Getaway does a very cool switch-up midgame that frees the audience from its alignment with the milquetoasts and invites it to guiltlessly/enthusiastically get on board with the scary guy with the big knife. You can cheer for the Joker without being a nihilist.

I note that in the movie's paint-by-numbers trailer, they have added a black CGI-bikini to Kiele Sanchez in the scene where she's lying under the waterfall:

Thursday, August 06, 2009

FINISHED!

Wow, I have not treated myself well this week. That's another thing about not having a day job--you can really force your body to do ridiculous things. I'm now utterly exhausted but my body WON'T sleep (I just tried to persuade it to for a while). All that said, despite waking up with a pounding headache around 11 a.m. that lasted all day today, I did manage to a) get a tiger shrimp coconut sandwich from delicious Num Pang and b) finish the first draft of something exciting (along with my co-writer on it). So, good.

I like how the extra in the background cracks up at the end of this sketch.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

TONIGHT'S HOMEWORK

Tonight I had homework. Every night lately I have homework. I'm working on a project with someone and we do parts of it together and then assign ourselves homework, and the threat hanging over our heads is the thought that you would show up at the next work session and have to say, "Yeah... I didn't do my homework this time." And then The Other Writer tolerantly says, "Okay, no problem, we'll just work on the stuff I did and be a little behind schedule..." and you quietly despise yourself...

So we do our homework.

Each night this week I've done homework from about 8 or 9 p.m. until around midnight or 1, then worked on a(nother unpublishable! unclassifiable! agent-repelling!) novel project until about 7:30 a.m., taking occasional breaks to watch TV, eat pizza, search for pornography, pace the room, draw black scratches in my notebook, write blog posts, drink espresso shots, or read the internet. I've gotten a decent amount done on both the homework and the novel.

But tonight I dropped by the book party (I know, what's a book party?) for Ground Up by Michael Idov, a new novel that I've heard is very funny and would like to read. FSG published it so it's gotta be at least a little good. (Isn't that true?) The party was certainly good--open vodka bar. Saw the excellent John Reed, who always seems surprised that I remember a story he once told at KGB. I meant to stay for literally twenty minutes but I kept trying the vodkas--pomegranate, dill, horseradish, cranberry (good), pepper (fucking disgusting, but inexplicably beloved by other attendees)--and stayed longer, and then had Thai food. Didn't get home til 11:30. And tonight was the hardest homework I've had for the project, probably ever. So now it's 4:30 and I'm taking my first quick break, since I finally finished. Am completely exhausted but will work for a little while on the other project, maybe listen to music to calm down, and look out my window at the soothingly deserted Financial District.

*******

Someone pointed out that I had comment settings set so that only people with blogger.com accounts could comment. I set this thing up so long ago it hadn't really occurred to me that that was the case. It really shouldn't be, right? So I reset it and now anyone can comment anonymously. Not that they will, but they could if they wanted to. Don't be an asshole.

Monday, August 03, 2009

BOOKS TO READ, PLUS A PARK CHAN-WOOK SHORT FILM

An addendum to the post below about now being a full-time writer: Go buy Midnight Picnic and Fires if you don't own them. You can buy them both together on Amazon for $28. Or buy Midnight Picnic directly from Word Riot, the publisher. While you're at it buy Timmy Waldron's collection, World Takes. I'm getting a royalty check soon. Not pays-the-rent money, but it's good to get paid for writing. Support strange, independent literature.

****************
LIST OF BOOKS TO READ

I've been meaning to do this for a while. At Readercon I made a list of many books I hadn't read/didn't own but wanted to read/own. I'm going to post some of them here. These are not in order of important, significance, or appeal--they are in the order I wrote them down. So if you're interested, read the whole list.

1. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. I already ordered this but haven't read it yet. It won a Shirley Jackson award while I was there. But I first heard of it while watching a panel discussion on "upbeat vs downbeat in YA fiction." One of the panelists talked about Tender Morsels and said it had been marketed as YA fiction but it was "horrifically dark" and included "gang rape by bears." I resolved right there to read it.

2. The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. Ordered this, too, haven't read it yet. I heard about this on the same YA panel. Klages was on the panel and said she had written it as a novel for adults but her publishers decided to do it as YA. It's about two kids becoming friends while their parents build the atomic bomb. I liked the idea, so I decided to buy this, too.

3. The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner by James Hogg. I mentioned this before. I already bought it but haven't read it. Nor do I quite know what it is. Just that I love the title and folks like John Clute, John Crowley, and quite a few others seemed to feel very strongly about it as one of the key "villain's voice" texts.

4. "They're Made Out of Meat" Not a book but a slight, amusing short story that someone mentioned to me at one point. I just like the title. You can read the story in about 120 seconds.

5. The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde. I can't remember in what context this was recommended to me. Odd children's stories by Oscar Wilde. Okay, it's on the list.

6. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. Wolfe was at Readercon and he is a pretty remarkable presence. Wheelchair-bound, elderly, and clearly exhausted, he is at the same time apparently inexhaustible and capable of summoning astonishing reserves of wit and charisma. He basically owned every stage he appeared on. I haven't read much "fantasy" but I'm told these "New Sun" books are extraordinary. I believe they're about a torturer in a society that exists on earth ten thousand years after the end of human society as we know it. If you need to be assured that something is "literature" before you deign to read it, don't worry--I'm told that this qualifies.

7. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. Speaking of "literature." Dhalgren is apparently one of the great unheralded works. (Unheralded in "literary circles," that is. In other circles, they'll know what you're talking about.) Again, I haven't bought this yet, but I absolutely will, and will read it, and am looking forward to it. Just the synopsis sounds fucking awesome. (I'm told some find the book extremely challenging to read, though.) And hey, Delany wrote Hogg (Its title perhaps a reference to an earlier book on this list?), so you know it's gonna be interesting.

8. The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay. Tremblay was at Readercon and appeared on a panel with me. I already knew who he was because he's one of the only people in the world who read Midnight Picnic, and he liked it. I bought and read The Little Sleep and to my relief it's really really good. Modern noir--a narcoleptic detective. It has one crazy coincidence that I had to suspend my disbelief at but the writing is top-notch and the plot is funny, cool, a pleasure to read. The half-assed comparison is to Motherless Brooklyn, but I didn't like Motherless Brooklyn that much--The Little Sleep is smarter, stranger, better.

9. The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding by Robert Hughes. I can't recall in what context this nonfiction book was recommended to me. It's about the origins of Australia as we know (prison island saga and so forth, obvious dramatic potential there), and it sounds completely terrific.

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



Bilge Ebiri at the Vulture today posted one of the best posts in the history of blogs, embedding a 25 minute short Park Chan-wook short film. Fucking cool.

Where can I see other hard to find short films by great directors online? I want to see Paul Thomas Anderson's short films Cigarettes and Coffee and Flagpole Special.

Look, here's Jack Nicholson.

ASSESSMENT OF LAST TWO MONTHS

So it's now been about two months since I had a day job. Let me step back a moment and see how being a "full-time writer" has affected my life.

  • I have more moment-to-moment stress. This is because I actually care about what I'm doing on a regular basis. If I get up and screw around for a few hours and accomplish nothing, I'm wasting time that I could've spent working on a novel or article or screenplay. Previously, I went to work and did meaningless things for eight hours, things involving Excel spreadsheets and emails, and that was a normal day. And I got paid for it. I did my job but I didn't care if my job got done or not, and I didn't care how well it was done. Fortunately the job was so easy that any monkey could do it, so this was never really an issue until capacity so outgrew need that half the department got laid off. Now the hours of my day are much more valuable, but this means I feel a lot more pressure to make use of them.

  • My anxiety about "writing career"-related issues is much more of a live wire, much more acute. Before, it wasn't something that I had to think about constantly. After all, I made a living doing something else. But now that's no longer the case. I can only live on savings for a limited amount of time. I don't particularly want to go back to having a day job, although I'll probably have to. But obviously, what I'd really like to do is sell a screenplay or sell a novel for good money. This is the single most exasperating part of being a writer, in my experience: You produce material that you're very happy with and proud of, and then people in the publishing industry--agents, in particular--hate it or seem to have read an entirely different manuscript. I've had--let me see--I guess four different agents over the years. Not one ever earned me a single cent. Some have worked hard for me and others haven't; some I think of fondly and others with loathing; but not one sold anything of mine. The calculus of this is baffling. Now that I'm dealing with it on a daily basis, much more actively, I find it profoundly stressful.
  • My productivity has increased dramatically. I used to write in fits and spurts. Earlier this spring I wrote a huge amount, while I still had the day job at D. E. Shaw (and yes, I often wrote in my office, but sometimes I got so wrapped up in it that this meant staying there late at night and sleeping on the floor of my office). But in 2008, I wrote very little, and what I did write was garbage. In the last two months I've written a bunch of freelance articles, which I enjoy although it's not particularly lucrative. I've also co-written much of a screenplay, done revisions on a novel, and begun a new novel. There is no excuse for not being productive now.

  • I'm more excited to be human. The mere act of spending 8-10 hours a day working for a company that exists to make rich people richer is not a good feeling. I feel happier to be a human being now. I have a lot less money and I'm less "comfortable" but everything is more exciting. I don't experience "malaise" as much. I do have sudden swings between excitement and depression. But that isn't always a bad thing.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

"A SITUATION HERE WHICH MAY ENDANGER YOUR PROPERTY AND PERSONAL SAFETY"

Ned posted an awesome letter all the tenants of his building found taped to their doors recently.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

INTERVIEW WITH PARK CHAN-WOOK

I wrote a feature on Park Chan-wook for The Daily Beast. It even contains a gratuitous (500) Days of Summer slam.

Today was an amazing day. Perfect slate blue sky. No humidity. I didn't do any work except a little writing in a notebook, but that's okay. Woke early and went to get Dominican breakfast with ASB in Brooklyn. Then went home and lay in the sun on my roof for about four hours. Sabra came over and ate cherries on the roof. Then I took a two hour nap. Then I went to dinner party, had excellent food. Now to drink sugary coffee drinks and stay up writing. Spent Thursday and Friday quite depressed, but today offset that.

MASK THING

Why is everyone in the youtube comments so freaked out by this?





(Thanks, Alex)